Inspired by recent Research Conferences

Last week, I attended the Massage Therapy Foundation's Conference on Research here in Seattle (for more info). The impetus for going initially was to represent Tom Myers, who had sponsored an evening event but couldn't be there. He asked me to go in his stead to introduce a viewing of presentations from another fascia conference, the Fascia Research Congress in Amsterdam last year (for more info). Once I saw the list of presenters, I knew I wanted to attend at least one day – and I'm so glad I did.

To prepare for the evening presentation, I watched the DVDs from last year's Fascia Research Congress (while on the treadmill – definitely a win-win strategy!). The conference lasted 4 days and researchers and clinicians from all over the world spoke. Lumbar pain & stabilization strategies, force transmission and myofascial construction, superficial fascia and its properties, how we utilize the placebo effect in manual therapy… So many interesting tidbits. (I prepared a summary handout of select research; I've posted it on our Student Resources page: click to download.)

Now, I'll admit, before this viewing I had had a cursory interest in research. Most of it felt too specific (usually biochemical) to have an effect on what it is I do day in, day out, in my practice. But these presentations have opened up new ways of understanding how fascia, muscle, nerve, vessels all coordinate our system – in health or in dis-ease.

For example, I appreciate more clearly the various layers of fascia, in the back of the calf for example, and how each layer has its own directionality of pull (not always along the muscle fiber direction). Now, when I'm met with a lower leg that defies release, I have more strategies: work transversely, work at 58° to either side of the muscle direction… And, I'm gaining swifter release of those compartments! 

And, there was the personal benefit of being at the recent conference: surrounded by colleagues, some old friends, some who I have wanted to meet for years, people who I've taught, people who taught me… And an inspiring interface with the variety of scientists who have dedicated their study to manual therapy or its correlates. It was a lively, warm-hearted, smart group of people. After so many days in the relative quiet of my session-room, it was such good good medicine to be with my tribe again!