Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Combat Pain; My Healing Journey

I am still shocked when I hear comments regarding massage as being frivolous or a luxury. What!?! Isn't it completely normal for every person and every working animal to receive regular treatments? Of course it's not, but it should be! It doesn't matter if you are trying to recover from trauma or simply trying to prevent it.

As someone who has suffered serious trauma, I can attest that I would not be where I am and have defeated many recovery odds, if it were not for all of the therapy I have done. Since my accident over a year ago, I have gotten worked on every week. Whether it be chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, applied physiology or physical therapy. Each modality played a vital role in how I have healed and continue to heal. Most people have physical therapy after injuries but the work must continue long after those appointments have ended if you wish to continue the healing process. It's a small price to pay for getting your life back!

Throughout my recovery, I chose to use different modalities depending on where I was at in my healing. I feel this is crucial.

As a therapist, I often find that there is a misunderstanding that massage is massage. Not true. There are many different types and each type has a time and place to obtain optimum results. Here are descriptions and guidelines of what is what and when is the right time:

MYOFASCIAL RELEASE "Myofascial Release is a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.

Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.)" - John F Barnes

Myofascial Release was the first modality I used. Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers and connects the muscles, organs, and skeletal structures in our body. When trauma occurs, the body's natural response is to freeze up to protect itself. It's completely subconscious. I learned, I am a master of this! Which is probably good and bad. I'm still "frozen" in spots in order to protect my injuries. When there is a restriction in the fascia web, it affects the whole system. It's like a snag in a pair of nylons. Myofascial Release works to "unwind" these restrictions and return your body to full capacity and full range of motion.

APPLIED PHYSIOLOGY I still use this modality nearly daily and in my work constantly. It is a muscle monitoring technique, applied physiology allows the body to express what is out of balance and provides information to restore that balance. Muscles are put through a normal range of motion, monitored to determine where the stresses lie. The centerpiece of the technique is using acupoints to ask “questions” about specific physiological and anatomical stresses. The goal of treatment is to let go of the stress within the body by integrating the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual components of an individual.

DEEP TISSUE One thing deep tissue massage is not is a fluff and buff!! It is aslo not relaxation massage. Go to a spa for that. Furthermore, it is a separate category of massage therapy, which I call corrective bodywork. It is designed to relieve severe tension in the muscle and the connective tissue or fascia. It is applied to both the superficial and deep layers of muscles and fascia. The sessions are often quite intense as a result of the deliberate, focused work and it can and will be uncomfortable at times.

OSTEOPATHY Osteopathy is a form of drug-free non-invasive manual medicine that focuses on total body health by treating and strengthening the musculoskeletal framework, which includes the joints, muscles and spine. Its aim is to positively affect the body's nervous, circulatory and lymphatic systems.

Now enough of me for a second, let's talk about our animals. When should we use the different modalities?

When should I schedule a corrective bodywork session?
Typically a week before the competition and a week after will give you optimum results. However, if it is your first session, schedule out a month for your first session. Every body responds differently.

What modality should I use for post competition? Is it ok to have work performed at the event? Absolutely yes it is! However, a pre or post comp. massage is very different from that of a "corrective session" i.e. deep tissue techniques. Pre and post comp work should feel very light compared to your regular sessions. They are geared towards flushing lactic acid, restorative range of motion exercises, and redirecting blood flow, as well as relaxing the mind and body. All very important. I will offer a word of caution though, if you are not on a regular regime of bodywork, don't first attempt it at a competition. Refer to above recommendations.

What modalities are best for prevention?
The answer is all are beneficial for prevention! Before my accident, I also received bodywork on a regular basis. I believe that is one of the biggest reasons my body was able to "take" the injuries it did. A soft, elastic muscle is going to bounce back so much more quickly and be so much STRONGER than one that is contracted and hardened in an already protective state of dysfunction.

An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure! Keep healing!

Heidi Pichotta

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't Let The Perfect Be The Enemy Of Good

As competitors of any nature, it's quite easy to become caught up in perfection. We can get so caught up in it that we lose the purpose of WHY we compete in the first place! It doesn't matter if we are a pro or a novice, we compete because we love it. And if we don't love it, it won't work. Simple as that.

When adding an animal to the mix, they also truly have to love their job to excel. If they don't have the drive, the will, the love of the game, then they just don't see the point in working for us and it shows in their performance. It equals pure frustration for both human and animal. As a handler or rider, I feel it is OUR job to work WITH the animals desires and needs rather than against them. To instill confidence and trust so that their maximum potential can be reached.

So often you hear from a competitor, "Well...I didn't do this right, or that right, or (insert animal's name here) wasn't listening to me today or cheated me or was being a pill." Whatever happened to going out there and having fun for the love of the game and being grateful for every positive, regardless of how big or small? Do we really think that our animals plot and scheme to make our lives miserable in the show ring? Doesn't that just sound ridiculous? But how often do you hear something of that nature? Whatever happened to accepting what you have that day? Or looking for a reason for the performance problem and doing the homework to fix it? Humans have off days, animals have off days. An off day is not the end of the world. And a bad day doing something we love is surely not the end of the world. In fact, it's a pretty darn good day!

It's not only ourselves that push perfection but we let our mentors and fellow competitors words affect us in a negative way. We take their criticisms (sometimes well intentioned and sometimes not) to heart and in turn, the wheels of self doubt are set in motion. But really what does that accomplishment? Absolutely nothing! I can promise that once you truly let go of all that negative garbage, things will get better, you will have more fun, and you and your animal will perform better.

This quote from top agility competitor, Daisy Peel, struck a chord deep within me.

"..running a Novice dog is a ton of fun, but to prove to people that you don’t have to step in to the ring perfect, or perfectly prepared. To the contrary, there are things I believe that the dogs will only learn in the ring, and so I see no reason to wait til they’re running Master’s level courses to enter them in a trial, provided that I can provide a positive experience that will further growth between my dog and myself as a team."

This, in my mind, is the mindset of a true champion.


Welcome to my blog. I'm going to try to keep this updated regularly...since I have so much to say. :-) Look for topics on horses, saddle fitting, massage, equine massage and body-work, dogs, dog agility with a some chit chat and commentary on the latest fashions thrown in for good measure.

Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.