A Bonewhisperer is a therapist who understands the hidden language of bones and is able to heal them with gentle methods.
“Force always creates counterforce; it is limited by definition…where as power on the other hand is still, it is like a standing field which doesn’t move. Gravity itself for instance does not move against anything. Its power moves all objects within its field, but it does not move.” from page 132 Power vs. Force by Dr. David Hawkins.
I was 51 in 2001 when I became a no hoper. I’d been a manual therapist for 15 years. I thought I knew what’s what about healing. When I was badly injured in that year, I was sure someone would save me. They didn’t. As a result, I became a member of a club I never wanted to join. Those who have lost hope of ever being out of pain.
This is the story about a new system of bodywork, Bonewhispering and Vascular Bone Therapy, created through me over the following 8 years to escape from this club. It was a time full of equal parts grace and suffering as I learned to depend on the support of the universe. But it was also a time of mystery and exploration. Eventually the work matured by unraveling the paradox of power vs. force in bodywork. Then, surprisingly, it evolved into a paradigm which shed light on many of the seeming contradictions within manual therapy. But this creation, at its deepest heart, is about hope: an emotion I came to value very highly when all was lost that year.
It was in the fall of 2001 when, while I was trading bodywork with a less experienced therapist, a tight spot released around my heart: one which would have been better left alone. I could feel my heart twist under her hands and instantly I had an anxiety attack. I didn’t know it at the time, but at that moment I became a no hoper. That anxiety stayed with me for 8 years.
It was if someone had turned off a switch to my feelings and turned on tension. All joy, all connection was gone. The nervous pressure woke me up 7 or 8 times a night. It was a nightmare. I could not live like this, so I went looking for saviors. I flew to Tucson, Connecticut and Albuquerque looking for help. I saw the best bodywork therapists, but my problem was beyond their skill. I was amazed how quickly I ran out of options. In fact, I felt much worse as now I had a painful sciatica and bad neck. I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked. Even though, at that time, I failed regularly with my own clients, I had assumed others with more skill could cure any physical crisis.
That wasn’t what happened. But having seen so many flail at my problem, I could see there was something missing in bodywork itself. It strangely emboldened me. Up to that point, it had never occurred to me I might developed my own system. I had been a follower my whole career; taking classes from a series of ingenious teachers. But I had fallen through the cracks…a lost soul. I was left to my own resources. So that day, I bought a library’s full of embryology, and physiology texts, including Gray’s Anatomy the 39th edition. Sitting at my desk, books piled around me, I began to study. I stopped taking classes, I stopped seeing other therapists. I was going to be my own hero. Or more exactly, I was hoping the universe might help me be my own hero. I prayed a lot. I knew I could not do it on my own and I was so right.
Like many manual therapists, I had come to bodywork with a lifetime of sports and car injuries. They had caught up with me. Here are some of my traumas.
- Knocked out 4 times
- Torn heart sack playing football. Many injuries from Australian rules football
- Torn pleura in lungs
- Two serious car accidents( rear ended at 50mph, smashed into a parked car at 45mph)
- High impact falls on sacrum from roller blading
- Knee, ankle, hip shoulder injuries.
- teeth knocked out
- Broken collarbone
So where was I to start on this body with one injury piled on top of another? I noticed therapists were divided into two camps: soft and hard. Soft included gentle manual work: cranial sacral, visceral manipulation and soft chiropractic. Hard therapies involved high velocity: hard chiropractic adjustments, Berry work, deep facet release. The former just seemed to bounce off and not do much for my problem. The latter was too direct for me. I felt like I was shattered glass. I was stuck in the no man’s land between hard and soft. I thought back to my own patients, and I realized I wasn’t alone.
But there had to be a middle way; a way which was strong enough to help but not break.
And it was at this point, I began to feel a presence of something larger than myself working in the background on this project. It gave me the courage to go on and never deserted me. The progress of the therapy wasn’t smooth; sometimes it tested me to the limit. But the inspirations, the synchronicities, the next right thing kept coming. I realized early on, many of the ideas were not my own. It gave me faith to go into dangerous country.
At that moment the right thing, as it often happened, was a book. It was titled Power vs. Force by David Hawkins MD and it said this: “Force automatically creates counter-force; its effect is limited by definition. We could say that force is a movement; it goes from here to there (or tries to) against opposition, force always creates counterforce: whereas Power, on the other hand, is still. It’s like a standing field that doesn’t move. Gravity itself, for instance, doesn’t move against anything. Its power moves all object within its field but gravity itself does not move.” Pg. 132.
The way to proceed became clear. Force was high velocity. I needed more power. I began to look for energy which moved “within the field, but itself does not move.”
The years I spent searching for more energy were like a purgatory. As time went by, many patients who had fallen into the chasm of power vs. force found my practice. We were on a journey together. We were all train wrecks: all no hopers. To help us, I tried cold lasers, gems, gem lamps and enhancers. Beautifully designed and thought out, they did not produce the field I needed. On this journey I met many interesting people. One man used a machine called a molecular enhancer and channeled its intense energy through his body. He was 6’7” and 280 pounds and he made a circuit with his patient using the energy of the machine. To heal he channeled his energy through his index finger alone. Amazingly, he was very effective: particularly with the shattered people I was interested in. I had eight sessions from him and it did not work for me. Also, I could not do what he did. It made me sick. Still, I found out an important thing from him. The search for an energy source was right; power could heal even using one finger.
While I was trying to solve the power source problem, there was another mystery. The trauma of injury was burying itself deeply into a system. But where was it…in the Muscles? Bones? Vasculature? Organs? At that point, a neurologist referred me to a dense but brilliant book by Dr. E. Blechschmidt on fetal development. It was called The Biokinetics and Biodynamics of Human Differentiation. It described biodynamic forces working in fields to produce fetal growth. At the right is a picture which shows the development of spinal nerves. The text describing the picture says this (in brief)”the cardinal vein tributaries that course from the superior veins appear to exert the main pull on the spinal cord. It is precisely in these regions that the spinal nerves appear. The dorsal tributaries of the cardinal veins originate earlier than the spinal nerves. Subsequently, they appear to act as guiding structures for the nerves.” Pg. 101
In other words, during fetal development, the vasculature is primary and “guides” the nerves. Most osteopathic therapies consider the nervous system to be the primary healing system. And there is no question it is vastly important. However, this illustration of a fetus made me think the vascular was the great designer. Other knowledge pointed me toward the vascular system. I knew the body protected the vasculature above all else, going so far as to dislocate shoulder joints to protect the axial artery under the arm. It is also known the chi is transported through the blood, and that the acupuncture meridians followed major vessels. From that point on I targeted the vascular system.
To my great disappointment, this approach was a total disaster. Nothing worked, and people got worse. I could find no way to work directly on the vascular system. I needed a big break. My strained faith in the universe and the Gods of bodywork barely kept me going. But the powers that be had not totally deserted me and in the door for a session walked a marvelous Black Swan. Her name was Cindy, and she came in for only 1 session. She was a rep for machine called Activated Air made in Germany. As far as I know, she was their only rep. Not that I was interested in her machine. After several years of buying expensive machines for “power”, the last thing I wanted was one more piece of equipment. Fortunately, she offered to let me demo the equipment for a week. The way she described it, activated oxygen builds up oxygen molecules in a chamber and then the oxygen is inhaled through a cannulus. On entering the body, the molecules break down, creating energy, an energy which is transferred to the heart and lungs and consequently the vascular system. What did I have to lose? I tried it.
I remember the miraculous moment as if it was yesterday. The client I was working on had been in 11 car accidents. Her first was at four years old when she was tossed 50 feet by a car going 40 miles an hour. So there I was trying this machine in my office and I hooked her up to a cannulus with the Activated Air for the session. Within minutes, I could feel an amazing difference in her tissues. It was as if someone had liquefied her. The effect on the tissue texture under my hands was like the difference between tapioca and a tough steak. It was like gravity, “all within its field but not itself moving”. It reminded me of a quote from my college physics class. ” The physics of resonance tells us a large amount of energy is not required, the greatest and most harmonious movements result from small amounts of energy applied at the proper frequencies”.
At that time, I didn’t know why it worked so well. Several years later I came across several facts which gave a satisfying explanation. At that time, all I knew was what I felt.
Of course, I bought the machine. And from then on the minute my clients walked in the door they were inhaling the magical Activated Air. But to my disappointment, despite this help, the vascular system stayed ensnared within some aspect of the paradox of power and force which I could not understand. I was so sure the vasculature was the key, but it was a failure. This time was the darkest night of the nine years. Nothing was working; if I pushed hard, it compressed but resisted light work.
The tipping point came when I was treating a woman with a crippled right knee. I knew better than to treat the pain and instead I was trying to get her body back in balance. As I worked her tissues with the oxygen, I remembered this quote from Dr. E. Blechschmid in Biokinetics and Biodynamics of Human Differentiation: “As is known, the skeleton arises only after the nerve and blood vessel pathways have been established. From the developmental aspect, it would be more accurate to say the skeleton surrounds the nerves and blood vessels.” Pg. 120
I began to wonder, if the vasculature is first, and the body is intent on protecting it, could it be the bones are actually organized around the blood vessels to protect them? In a way, could each major blood vessel have created a bone to protect it? Could it be, if the musculature, in its defense of the vascular system (in this case the femoral artery) had driven the trauma and the artery into the eriostemon of these protecting bones? With the vessel pushed against the bone and the bone being filled with vessels, could it be the artery and bone are in a double bind? In that case, because of the hierarchy of protection, which placed the arteries and veins above all else, the arteries would have to be released first or the bone could not safely shift.
On this whim which seemed inspired but was really a stretch at the time, I began to tinker with techniques. One patient had not injured the painful knee, but 6 months before the problem began, she had been hit by a beam of wood in the thigh of the opposite leg. On palpation, I could feel a deep lesion in that leg. With the oxygen going, I picked up a Fulford massage tool and began to gently vibrate the bone, no force. Based on my theory of the blood vessels key role in creating change, I focused on the bone’s relationship with the blood vessel to release them both. It was miraculous. The bone instantly began to change shape under my hands. It wiggled like a snake (maybe a slightly cold snake) It was obvious immediately that the bone was not just bruised, it was spasmed. But the conundrum which kept it from releasing was its relationship with the artery it protected. It felt as if the bone spasm wrapped around the artery through the fascial tissue to keep it from damage. Within just minutes, the knot she had known for 10 years released. It was just a mater of time to extend this relaxation response up into the pelvis and down into her right leg. I asked the patient to get up and she not only got up but not just walked, but ran up the stairs in my office.
It was an exciting moment! I thought unraveling power vs. force was days away. My enthusiasm was slightly premature.
But it was the seminal, the key stone step. Everything else grew from this. I began to use this technique with other patients with some powerful successes. A house framer came in with a painful body totally out of balance. He was in such misery; he had become a drug addict to keep working. On his intake, his only serious injury was a bad one. He had fallen from a second story and landed on a hammer in his tool belt: breaking his femur high in his thigh. On palpation, you could feel the thick, knotted scar tissue around the break and also detect the pressure it put on the pelvis. It felt very much like the previous woman’s thigh injury. So I employed the same technique, letting the artery go gently and by working with the bone. The results were similar and the bone moved and unwound beneath my hands. It took two sessions of this work and his body pains went away, he went through rehab and is still healthy and back to work today. Once again, I did not treat the pain (which would have been impossible anyway since it was spread over his whole body) but balanced out his bone spasms and took the torque from his skeletal system.
As time went by, the picture of what was happening in the body became clearer. This was very important for the growth of Vascular Bone Therapy. I found the closer to reality my vision was, the better were my results. The following analogy is something made up to explain VBT to patients. It will help to relate to the clinical anatomy.
I call this the bee story. In it the bee is the vasculature, the cocoon is the bones of the skeleton and the bee keeper the bodywork therapist.
There is a bee who is preparing to hibernate for the winter in his hive. He is a special kind of bee, and he produces a secretion which is quite hard but flexible and forms a protective cocoon around his body. Now this cocoon is sensitively connected to the bee’s body. It is almost as if the cocoon is an extension of the bee’s body. There is a strong feedback mechanism. Now this protection is layed down in a crystalline fashion, with geometric type architecture. And it is designed to be pulled around the bee with a special ability. This cocoon can disjoint and in the process of disjointing, absorb the force of any trauma which threatens the bee. So if the dreaded happens, and the hive falls and our inhabitant is traumatized, the cocoon job is to disjoint and save our bee. The only trouble is, when the beekeeper comes in, the spring to put the bees out the bee is trapped inside its shell: a victim of his own protection. The cocoon is collapsed tight around his body. But more importantly, his body is adhered to the protection so that any forceful attempt to free the protection results in the bee holding on for dear life.
But the calm and confident beekeeper knows what to do. He has some very small tools which have just the right vibration for the cocoon to respond to. He knows there are two keys, he must convince the bee it is safe to let go, and he must gently release the life rich layer which adheres the bee to the cocoon. To do this he infuses a type of energy rich oxygen into the cocoon which puts a higher vibration into the life layer and allows it to change easier.
Then he gently uses vibration on the cocoon as a tuning fork reaching through to the intervening life tissue. But he does not just release the life tissue; he reaches through the life tissue through the tough connective tissue to the bee. Gently, with vibration and no force, relaxing the relationship through the life tissue, along the intervening strap tough tissue to the bee. In doing this, he must convince the bee that the torque is off and to relax is safe. When this instinct is eased, when the bee is convinced his vital self will not tear if he releases, then the cocoon is freed from the underlying tissue. Then the bee keeper gently tugs at the crystalline structure until it goes back into joint and the bee can be freed.
This is an analogy for the living process of Vascular Bone Therapy (VBT). One thing I noticed early on. There is no mechanical process that can explain VBT. Only a living thing can have the dynamic feedback intelligence to stand for the vascular- bone relationship. So I will use this analogy to explain how this process can be found in human anatomy.
We can investigate this with the drawing below. Hidden within its lines and the accompanying text we can find the above bee story and within that a picture of vascular bone spasms. This is a drawing representing the cross-section of the lower leg just below the knee which I will call page 16. In this drawing some muscles have been excavated to show the fascial tissue sheaths (straps). The tibia bone is on the right; the fibula on the left in this leg, the artery is the living bee. From the experiences above, I knew bones and vasculature, the cocoon and bee, get compressed into a spasm together. But how? Notice the fascial sheaths in the drawing. They act as go betweens. When the muscles twist, they pull the arteries up against the bones via the fascial straps. These straps have an important quality.
In most situations the fascia slides across tissue, on bones it’s different. The text on the page beneath this picture says this “However, the deep fascia itself never passes freely over the bone, where deep fascia contacts bone, it blends firmly with the eriostemon (bone covering)” This is important because of one fact I have found from working on bones. Contrary to what you might think, traumatic injury usually lodges in the strongest part of bone (cocoon) rather than the weakest. In this case the strongest place is where the fascial tissue attaches to the bone. The trauma will bury itself into the living part of the bone, the eriostemon, as in the cocoon. Consequently, to release the artery from the bone (vascular bone spasm ) you must reach through the living part of the bone with vibration (after making it easier to change with activated oxygen) intend along the fasciae until you get to the artery (bee). At this point you must do something which is nonscientific but more related to the innate intelligence of living things. You need to treat the artery like an intelligent part of our body. You reach through the periostenom to the fasciae and then take your intention deeper and convince the artery to release its compression syndrome with the bones. I believe it does this because you are releasing the pressure which is threatening the artery. Namely, the protection of the bone (cocoon) which has disjointed around it and trapped the artery wrapped fasciae within its living layer and often deep into the bone itself.
After releasing this compression syndrome or vascular bone spasm (VBS), the next step is to work the structure out of its disjointment. If releasing the VBS goes well, then the bones and soft tissue will almost melt under your hands. If the VBS is in a place which takes a mechanical beating, like the hip, then sometimes stretches or chiropractic is necessary.
As I began to understand this relationship between bones and blood vessels, I began to wonder if this was the answer. I felt a glimmer of hope. It seemed at first to be the key to the riddle of power vs. force. If you put force into the bone spasm with a hard adjustment, it grips more in protection of the blood vessels: but on the other hand, these bones twisting in on the vessels defied gentle approaches. The torque would still be there after soft tissue work, perhaps even stronger. But by gently relaxing the arteries/veins with the advantage of the oxygen and employing gentle vibrations, they seemed to unwind each other.
For example, another man came in with a bad back. In his intake, there were no injuries at all. It was unusual to find a grown man with no injuries so I quizzed him further. He had indeed led a charmed life but in retrospect, the only thing he could remember was bumping his knee on his couch while playing tag with his son. Sure enough, there it was, not as serious as the framer, but a lesion just above the knee. Approaching it the same, I released the bone spasm in the femur and that very day the back problem went away. He has sent me many people so I keep up on him. It never came back. After one session! Once again, I did not treat the pain but looked for the vascular bone spasm to get his body into balance.
As I look back on this time, which was in 2006, I can see how encouraging these successes were. I was pretty desperate. But it wasn’t going to be that simple. The work was not mature enough. Whatever direction the therapy took after this, it always came back to these basics. But there was a very big problem. From the first, VBT had good success with the extremities. But working on the torso, pelvis, and head, where most of bodyworks lost souls had their problems, (including me) was completely different. The deep set organs, the cavities and large blood vessels worked by different rules.
These rules are a great mystery. The human body is an extremely complicated organism. There are dozens of types of bodywork. Each of the genius inventors of these healing systems has searched for the prime directive. The underlying mechanics of the body which when tapped into, allow the body to go back to its chaotic, flowing self. Some look to the viscera as the central concern, others the cranial sacral rhythms, and the rolfers and fascial therapists are sure it is the deep tissue. All of these bodyworks have successes. Even more strange, many of them seem contradictory of each other. For instance, deep tissue massage can help a patient’s back from the outside in, and visceral manipulation can do the same thing from the inside out.
Searching for these underlying axioms for VBT was like solving a great mystery. What I hoped for, from the start, was a quick fix. I wanted to feel better and I was deeply concerned with my client’s welfare. This was not to be. The puzzle was too deep. VBT started from a different basic view, the bone / vasculature relationship was primary. I needed a paradigm which built its rules from this place. It was exciting and dangerous. To my amazement, in the end, the view of the body which evolved was a field theory which explained the seeming contradiction in other types of bodywork.
These rules of VBT for the thorax, head and pelvis are complex and took years to develop. I look back on it now and feel gratitude for how much good fortune I received in their growth. So much I could never have thought of came as a gift. I feel deeply, that this approach is an evolutionary step for bodywork. But it is too complicated to describe the whole paradigm here. It would take a book. But one gift of discovery made VBT possible in the head, pelvis and thorax. There is more on this on the website.
These 3 pictures with flow lines were the breakthrough for VBT. They come from an article written in 1927 in German which I obtained through a miraculous Black Swan (a story told in the expanded technical section.) I had possessed the drawing of the inside surface of the scapula for many years before obtaining the others The mystery of VBT in the cavities is contained in the lines of these drawings. The author of this article used an awl to poke holes in the bones then injected ink randomly into the trabeculae: the patterns you see are from the ink migrating along lines of flow in the bones. The pelvis from the front, the ileum from the side, and the cranium as if the top of the head were removed just above the ears plus the scapula from the anterior side.
Over the years I always thought the lines in the scapula were important. I had many ideas about this picture. I rightly felt the flow lines were imprints echoing forces acting from the muscles and ligament onto the bones. But it wasn’t until I looked at the other pictures that I found an answer to the most difficult question facing VBT in the body cavities.
It is actually two questions, 1. Do the organs and vasculature of the torso head and pelvis have the same relationship in the bone/vasculature as the extremities? And 2. If this is so, there must be a mechanism to go from the outside to in for the bones to pull these vulnerable organs/vasculature against them.
I was pretty sure the vasculature had the same relationship, but the organs were a mystery. Once again I found confirmation in Blechscmidt . He is describing the development of the organs and he says this. “Without exception, each organ that is developing is contributing to the shaping of the whole body, even if that organ happens to undergo subsequent regression.” Page This quote is very similar to the previous quote from Blechschmidt. “As is known, the skeleton arises only after the nerve and blood vessel pathways have been established. From the developmental aspect, it would be more accurate to say the skeleton surrounds the nerves and blood vessels.” The idea of Vascular Bone Spasms stemmed from the later quote. Bones are, in a sense, formed to protect blood vessels by the blood vessels themselves. The first quote says a similar thing about organs. Organs shape the body as they grow. So they too are forming the muscular/ skeleton around themselves for protection. It must follow you can work back from the bones to organs. They too are protected by the bones and consequently get spasmed into them.
These lines show how the intelligence of the body does this. You can see each of these bones has flow lines which are circular. These are the important parts. At first I thought they represented the gripping powers of the muscles in a twisting pattern. But this is too limited. These circular lines represent vortexes, which when twisted by the complex combination of muscles and ligaments which create them, form a three dimensional spiral type shape movement which reaches into the body. The secret to this is; they protect the organs and vasculature when working together in pairs or triads. For instance, the two scapulas work together as does the the scapulas and the cranial base, or the two ileums with the sacrum. So any injury will always involve one of these lock down vortexes, usually more. This is easy to test. Just take your two shoulder blades and act as if you are protecting yourself from trauma. You can feel these shoulder blades, working together, can protect almost any position deep in the thorax. This movement always includes the spine for another dimension. The same holds true of the gluts, the cranial base and the sacrum. It is their nature to have tremendous power.
A whole world opens up when you look at it this way. But I will mention one more thing. If, while you are testing your scapula’s ability to protect your chest cavity, try contracting them in two different ways. One, while breathe is relaxed. Then another with breath held. It is easy to see your defenses are much more powerful while holding your breath. This is called the Valsalva Maneuver and has much to do with fluid and air pressure in the lungs, vasculature, and the cranial sacral system. It too must be released, and has strong relationship with the lockdown vortexes we just studied. In the end, the key to releasing this fluid pressure is space, often represented by recesses. You actually reach into the recesses and release the vascular/organ spasm. When this gift came I was very dubious. The recesses were, after all, just gutters. But when I employed them they represented a huge breakthrough.
This, of course, is just the bare bones. But it was interesting how each of these steps was essential. Some less injured patients healed after discovering the lock down vortexes but the more complex problems needed release of the fluid systems to recover. Here is the example of a difficult patient who, when she healed, gave me confidence in the path I had been shown.
This client had been with me through much of the development of the VBT. She was a horse whisperer and a no hoper like me. I had seen her perhaps 15 years ago when she came to me with a bad head injury when a long dumbbell tipped over by a child hit her on the top of the cranium. She had mostly recovered from that injury after our work 13 years ago , but had come to me about 3 years ago with a frozen shoulder and crushed chest from being smashed against a post by her favorite horse. At first, we made good progress with her injuries and she was almost back to normal function. Then, in a bad accident, she was carrying some dishes down a set of stairs in her house, slipped and fell down a flight of 6 or 7 of them and landed on her sacrum/tail bone. The fall broke her tailbone but even worse, it seemed to have found all the other injuries to her spine and head. As a result her spine spasmed up and her neurological system went completely haywire. She had to take sleeping pills to sleep, couldn’t sit for long, and when she walked more than a few hundred yards her back would spasm up for days. There were other neurological symptoms in her digestive system and her head. It was very bad.
Since her fall, she had come to me 2 times a month for 2 hours and we would keep the wolf at bay. The sessions did some good and most importantly she had hope. She believed in VBT and possessed an amazingly sensitive body awareness which helped me developed some of the techniques to help her. But I could not get her spine to let go. She would leave my office feeling relaxed and better, but within a week her misery was back. She was a brave and resilient person, but this pushed her to her limits, as it did me.
When patients started returning with good results from recess and fluid system work, I was eager to try it on her. Finally, after I had been doing the recess work for a 2 weeks, she came in for one of her 2 hour sessions (which were once a month at that time). I had developed the technique some by the time I saw her, (I had learned to connect two or more recesses together) and we did a concentrated 2 hours, almost entirely on the recesses. She left feeling good (which was not unusual) and I thought nothing more of it until almost three weeks later, when she was due to come in the next day. When I picked up my messages on the machine, I got one from her which said , “that last session you did completely let go of my spine and I’m feeling really good right now, I think I’m going to give myself a break and not come in tomorrow.” I was astonished. My hardest, most demanding, most perplexing client better after one session! This hit me like a ton of bricks. First, I was ecstatic for her, and grateful to her for her faith in the process, and secondly, deep down inside a confidence was born; a confidence that the universe had led me down the right path with its gifts. Because no matter how much faith you have, there is always that voice in the back of your head which doubts. And believe me, the doubts were fast and furious out in no man’s land with someone as injured as this woman.
There so many stories to tell like this one. But the real question is, ‘ how often does Vascular Bone Therapy help?’ And where does it fit in with other methods? The following is an opinion based on 25 years of practice and 21 years of comparing notes in a clinic. During those years, I have shared clients with every type of bodyworker, from acupuncture, to visceral, to chiropractic to shiatsu. I have seen them use lasers, mechanical link, cranial sacral, and facet work on our patients. Almost never do people just see one therapist, and often patients will be seeing three or more. I believe I know what other modalities can do, although there is a considerable difference between the skills of practioners in each modality. I will use percentages here, but of course in real life they are like the weatherman’s forecast, only approximations.
To begin with, I believe there is about a 20% baseline success rate in most bodywork sessions. In other words, whether it is a chiropractor, a massage therapist, or a visceral massage therapist, despite the level of skill they possess, they will help considerably about 20% of those they see. (this means get rid of symptoms for 2 months without work). From this point, it is a matter of ability. The practitioner with good skills will help a lot with about 40% of their patients, and keep the wolf at bay in another 10 to 20 percent. This 10 or 20 percent will get help enough to keep returning, but the symptoms will reoccur within days or weeks. These therapists make up the bulk of practitioners and from my experience are capable, intelligent and sensitive. Then there are the geniuses. The Barralls, the Lowens, the Weiselfish-Giamatteo, the Upledgers, the Fulfords. People who have almost supernatural abilities and can probably help a lot in 60 to 70 percent of those they see. I have studied with all these people. They are few and far between and they usually only teach. If they do work, they are booked out for so many years you have no chance of seeing them.
So, if we are generous we can say bodywork has a 60% improvement rate. Improvement being that your symptoms are gone or are so light as to not cause problems in day to day living; and it lasts for at least 2 weeks. From studies I have read, the other 40% is divided among those not helped, and those made worse. So what is it that stops nearly half of the patients who go to manual therapist from getting better? My opinion, after spending 9 years trying to solve this problem, is that there is one quality which divides these two groups. And that quality is level of trauma. This does not mean just the force someone is struck with. I have seen people injured terribly in seemly innocuous rear enders and others uninjured by head on collisions. But how penetrating the blow is and how vulnerable the patient is. (how many previous injuries, strength, position in accident etc.)
This doesn’t seem like an earthshaking revelation. Of course level of trauma makes for worse injuries. But the questions is; what happens in heavier trauma which is so hard to correct? Sometimes it is as obvious as a broken arm or ruptured spleen. But often it is not. From the VBT point of view, I think the body does not heal because the body locks down hard between the vortexes and the Valsalva defense in order to save the vital organs/vasculature. It saves our life, but at the same time embeds the injury in to into a vascular/organ/bone spasm.
This injury is imbedded deep and hard. But it is embedded into delicate structures. We have returned to the question of Power vs. Force. When the level of trauma is too great, then the body is too deeply injured to use heavy force. But light work does not have enough energy. You need to come in the back way with power.
VBT therapy is about helping the 40% or more who exist in this no man’s land of power vs. force: The no hopers. This is not in any way to belittle the brilliance of other techniques. Every day I use what I learned in Visceral Manipulation, in Mechanical Link, in Cranial Sacral, in Berry Work. I particularly like Visceral Manipulation and strain counter- strain. I have also shared an office with acupuncturists for 20 years and their work is wonderful. Almost always, when trauma is great, the bones are dislocated around the vasculature to protect it. So chiropractic is essential. What VBT does is to unhook the vascular- bone relationship so the work on these systems is efficient and not fighting the deeper lockdowns. My experience is that when the trauma is great, if the vascular bone spasms are still engaged, an adjustment “goes out as you get in you car”. However, once the vascular bone spasms are released, adjustments hold, cranial sacral work takes, viscera manipulates and muscles release. Often, VBT will stand on its own. It takes enough pressure off to heal with gentle stretching and movement.
Here is an example of a true no hoper who needed all these systems. Karen (not her real name) came to me after a lifetime of problems. She had a sharp pain in her stomach and serious hip and back problems for most of her life. At 60 she went to a doctor for an x-ray on her pelvis which showed a big divot out of the lower part of one ileum. The only explanation she could think of for this was at 2 years old, she had tumbled out of her car though an open door and bounced along the freeway at about 50 miles an hour. When her father ran back to pick her up, she was not even crying. He did not take her to the hospital, and about 6 months later she entered a stage where she could not keep any food down accompanied with diarrhea and almost died of malnutrition. She came to me with 65 years of misery in her right hip, discomfort in her digestive system and constipation.
Surprisingly, although I have seen this since, what began Karen’s healing was working on the opposite hip from the divot side. With hips, the trick is to make space. So, employing the oxygen, I use the percussors to reach into the left hip and extend into the space there looking for the place where the deeper structures, organs and vasculature, are in spasm with the bones. But in this case, releasing the hips does not do the job, because the trauma is so bad it has injected itself in the digestive system. But, like is often the case in power vs. force, the bones are so spasmed with the lower arteries, I could not affect the digestive system till I released the deep trauma embedded in the bones. So we went back and forth between releasing the vascular bone spasms and doing visceral manipulation on the mesenteric root… creating more space in the pelvis. After several sessions, the left hip began to release its grip on the pelvis. Then we could balance out the left hip with the right hip. Until you feel this, it is hard to imagine, but as the bones let go, then the viscera can begin to get their motility back and function properly again. In a sense, it’s almost like a visceral bones spasm, and I look at the viscera as large plexus of arteries and veins which are also protected by the bones.
With Karen, the hips let go first and she became comfortable sitting and walking for the first time in 60 years. Then slowly, the digestive system regained vitality and we were able to gently coax it back into balance. So often in the past with a situation like this, I was disappointed with my inability to get the motility of the digestive system back. I see now, I never had a chance. The vascular and visceral bone spasms were just too entrenched to move without more power. Karen is now back to normal function and I am really happy to have helped a lovely person who trusted me.
It’s been a long journey, and there is so much else to say. But since what started this whole epic was my own misery, it is fitting I should be this story’s final patient. It took the whole eight years for me to heal. My injuries were very similar to the woman crushed by the horse. Through those years my structural problems healed. The neck got better, the sciatica disappeared, and life long knee and back problems dissipated. But I still could not sleep and would periodically slip into a nightmare combination of pressure and anxiety for weeks at a time. For eight years I was up every night 2 or 3 times. I would go into the work room in my home and tinker with my body. Often I could get back to sleep but always I would wake up with pressure and bathed in sweat. It began to wear at my health and I worried illness would overtake me. Every once in a while, I would accidentally find a combination of releases which would allow me to sleep for a night. But it was like the story of Flowers to Algernon, where the man would achieve intelligence then lose it. After a good night often the next sleep I would find me slipping desperately back into the misery.
The releases which finally healed me are a complex combination, which is fitting for a complex problem. If it were easy, someone else would have helped me. But the trick was to use the percussors and the oxygen to release the fluid injury to the VBT of the cranial sacral system at the same time as working the big muscles of the lock down vortexes of the scapula and gluts. But, as was often the case in difficult problems, I had to consider the inter relatedness of the body: the cranial sacral system relationship to the other fluid and air systems, the vasculature, the organs, and the air pressure of the lungs. The secret was to open these fluid systems by using the recesses. Ironically, the final step was learning to release the central tendon of the diaphragm. 9 years ago I had focused on this tendon as being the problem. The gifts of grace had showed me a new way.
I still remember my first 3 or 4 nights of sleep in a row. It was such heaven! I didn’t know what it was like not to be sleep deprived. The same pressure which disturbed my sleep also caused my anxiety They both released together from their deep systems within the body. I became a person again. It was as if I had been possessed. I will never again doubt the power of physiology on the psyche.
In the end, my mind goes back once again to hope. During the years of solving this problem I never slipped into despair. Faith sustained me. There were dark nights when I thought I had been deserted. But then the grace would give me a gift, the right person with the right problem…or a dream, so the flower which is this work would continue to blossom. The people who stayed with me are all getting better now. They were, without exception, people with faith in this process. They hung on because they could see growth and meaning in the inspiration the universe provided.
My practice is full of people with hope. This is not to say, even now that the work is mature, there is no struggle. If people have a lifetime of misery, it takes time to turn it around. Last week I worked on 5 people facing serious surgery. They all have hope, and they are every last one improving. Many have spent a decade or more in drug hazes to endure. They were no hopers. Vascular Bone Therapy gives them a chance.