“I don’t know why your spasticity is getting worse,” my doctor said. “Your MS is stable. You’re doing everything right.”
And I was. I understand how to work with spasticity with exercise, stretching, diet, etc. I know the available medications and what’s on the horizon. “Spasticity treatment” is a long-standing Google alert, and I’ve read nearly every book and article I can find on the subject. Still, I battled increasingly bad spasticity for almost 8 years. I tried a variety of different treatments, including massage, transdermal electronic stimulation (TENS), Botox injections, Myo-block injections, multiple medications, and even discussed spinal implants and surgery with my doctors. Medical marijuana is the only thing that worked at all, and it still wasn’t enough for me to fully regain function.
It wasn’t until I walked into Lisa Klein’s office to try something called Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) that I considered something other than standard-run-of-the-mill-neurological-disease-complications might be the cause of not only my spasticity, but possibly even my multiple sclerosis. Here’s Lisa (she’s amazing, and the video is well worth watching to get an understanding of what IMT is).
I found Lisa through the recommendation of a naturopathic doctor who is a friend of mine. When I first walked into Lisa’s DC office, she looked at me and asked if I had received a bad head injury as a child. In fact, I had. When I was nine years old, my family was in a terrible car accident in which I received a bad concussion and mild (if you can call it mild) skull fracture. This was back when when seatbelts only covered your lap. (That made them practically useless since your head can still crash into the seat in front of you – which is exactly what happened to me.)
Lisa noticed that I had some structural issues that, according to her training, happen with frontal head trauma, including brain injury (sort of like shaken baby syndrome, except you’re not a baby), neck issues, and a descended sacrum. All of these injuries happen as force travels through your body from impact to your head. In our first session, Lisa told me she believed that my spasticity was caused by the head injury as well as a descended sacrum pressing on the nerves that feed my leg. Apparently, I had one of the most “jacked up brains” she had ever encountered.
But why didn’t I have problems when I was a kid? In an IMT view of illness, you can develop neurological disease when the body has a load on its systems that it cannot handle. Since the accident was in the 80s, and I wasn’t dead or dying, there was no medical treatment offered. I was a kid and therefore considered resilient. But, my body grew around the injury. Eventually, it couldn’t handle it anymore. And neurological symptoms followed.
There are many theories on the possible causes of multiple sclerosis. A head injury is not something I have ever heard of as a potential cause. Could my MS be caused from something unique? I have no genetic markers for MS. No one in my family has autoimmune disease. I grew up in a climate with a lot of sunshine. None of the standard risk factors for MS apply to me.
My Georgetown neurologist believes that multiple sclerosis might have different causes for different people. Maybe it’s a virus in some people. In others, perhaps it’s a neurotoxin. Some people believe it’s a vascular issue. What I do know for certain is that once I started working with Lisa, the spasticity stopped getting worse. In fact, it improved. A lot.
IMT is a kind of bodywork that’s really hard to explain. My therapist compares it to European osteopathic techniques. I would compare it most closely to craniosacral therapy, but much, much better.
After several months of working with Lisa, I can say honestly that she’s given me a new life. Where it was once difficult to walk across the room without my leg cramping, I am back to walking several miles a day with little discomfort. If I get no better than I am today, I will consider the treatment a resounding success. But Lisa doesn’t think we’re done. And I hope that she’s right. Each session, something else changes a little bit. My back is more open. My neck doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. A nice side effect of all of that is that I am in a much better mood.
If you would like to learn more about Integrative Manual Therapy, try to find a therapist in your city. It’s so hard to explain how simple yet complicated this technique is. It’s not something I ever knew existed, but I wish I had discovered it years and years ago. Look for IMT to be helpful for pain syndromes, complicated neurological problems, and much more. I might even say it’s magic.