Saturday, September 03, 2011

What we don't even know that we don't know


LINK ->>>  What Do We Know For Sure, Really? (For therapists)

The blog post is by Alice Sanvito, at, a thoughtful massage therapist, interviewed lately by Will Stewart (who calls himself thrill96) on his blog-radio show:  Russian Massage and Neuroscience: Interview w/ Alice Sanvito.

Alice is somebody who isn't afraid to change, who isn't afraid to think about things a bit differently, who isn't afraid of the unknown or of uncertainty. It's a rare quality in a manual therapist - most want to convey the impression that they are experts. Much of the time, I imagine, a patient can feel a level of expertise through their own somatosensory afferent system. If the attitude and the handling don't match, I think it's better that the handling be "expert" rather than the claim.

What constitutes "expert" handling? Well, every nervous system is different. Every pain problem is as unique as the person's fingerprints. So, rather than claiming some sort of "expertise" in some technique or other, i.e., a set of cookbook approaches learned at a class, it's way better to stay humble, let treatment be at the pace of the nervous system with which one's own is interacting, let treatment be more about exploring than performing, watch for settling, watch for deepening of breathing, watch for long periods of silence, encourage the same without being dominating. One lets processes occur until they stop. These are easy to feel through sensitive aware handling - warming, softening, sense of lengthening, pulsing, etc. All these indicate nervous system corrections. Let the patient become fascinated with feeling their own body's life. Let them describe what they can sense. Much of it will be a surprise to them. Give them room to enjoy new afferent experiencing, the feelings that arise when nervous systems self-correct in response to the most minimal and non-invasive input you can manage. 

How does one become "expert" at handling another's nervous system? One learns manners, and boundaries, remembering to "ask permission", not just verbally but also kinesthetically. One maintains these throughout the entire therapeutic encounter. One adapts, matches oneself to the patient. Something as simple as learning to separate one's own breathing from one's own contact with the patient can buffer a lot of unintentional "noise" from a nervous system that is sensitive. This means, literally being aware of your own breath and controlling it, or resting elbows somehow so that breathing motion doesn't travel all the way down your arms to the patient's body. Little things like that. 

Thank you, Alice Sanvito, for being a fellow traveler in the world of deepening into whatever it is we do. I don't think we can, or ever will, know anything for sure, because manual therapy is a verb, in the moment, not a noun, ever, in spite of how many conceptualizations are dreamed up to try to package it or analyze it or measure it scientifically. One thing is for sure, though: we cannot "touch" (directly) anything but the nervous system, as represented in the skin. All the rest is stuff we make up, an "as if" story.

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