Healing Reaction and the Healing Response Plan
By Steve Hefferon, CMT, PTA
Today I’d like to talk to you about a principle of wellness that really stems from this common statement patients make: “I started to do the exercises, or program or taking the enzymes and I got worse.” The principle is called the Healing Response or the Healing Reaction and it can be applied as a mini healing program or guideline within any treatment modality you are using.
This is a systematic process by which you can progress your treatments in a way that allows you to self manage or take control of your situation as you go through the healing process. This method applies to everything from exercises to homeopathic medicines, from supplements to heat or cold application, from inversion therapy and trigger point therapy to massage therapy and acupuncture. However, as back pain sufferers, I will offer examples below that reflect treatments that you might encounter in your process of finding back pain relief.
Stretches and Exercises
Let’s say you begin an exercise or stretching routine and you get irritated and you think, “Oh my gosh my condition is getting worse.” This feeling, this assumption leads many people to stop or quit their therapy. Then they say: ‘That didn’t work for me.” Here’s what I’d rather have you do:
Start the exercises very slowly, increasing the amount of stretching or exercise intensity to your tolerance level. And tolerance means how you feel while you’re doing it and how you feel later that night and how you feel the next morning. If you feel ok that night and also the next morning, then you can begin to incrementally increase your routine in time, intensity, repetitions, etc. However, if you feel too much strain or soreness, then you should back off the program for a few days then restart as I indicate below.
I want you to start your treatment or modality slowly and at your tolerance and then push yourself a little more. If you have an exasperation of your symptoms at a certain level, stop and let yourself recover through the healing response (which might take two or three or four days), then resume your routine again, this time at half the intensity of the exercise or stretch. Then as your tolerance builds, slowly increase again, progressing the number of repetitions or your resistance or time, and so on.
The same thing can be said for enzymes. These are substances that actually mobalize excess fibrin in the body. Most people have a lot of fibrin in their body. When you start taking enzymes you may feel worse because your body is starting to process all those excess fibrin out of your body. Signs of this include: discoloration of urine, odor change of urine, loosening of the stools, unusual perspiration odor. That’s your body getting rid of some of that excess stuff, which we’ll call metabolic waste.
If these signs make you feel uncomfortable, then stop taking the enzymes and let your body recover for three or four days, then go back on the enzymes at half the dose you were previously taking them. With our Heal-N-Soothe™ enzyme product, the average dose is nine capsules per day. So if you are taking nine per day and start experiencing uncomfortable signs or symptoms, then take a few days break from them and then return at three capsules per day. Over time increase a few capsules every few days until you can comfortable handle the safe yet powerful dose of nine per day. But keep in mind that the body cannot simply get out all that metabolic waste at one time, which is why it takes about three months on the enzymes for the greatest effect to be felt.
Heat therapies, like heating pads, saunas, hot tubs and creams will increase circulation in your body, which will increase your metabolism. When the body is working with a higher metabolism, it will begin doing more metabolic processes faster. So if you are using too much heat and are feeling uncomfortable, stop for three or four days to allow your body to recuperate, then add smaller doses and intensities of heat again. Slowly incrementally increase the level of heat and the duration of the heat therapy over time to get to the maximum levels and its results.
The same applies to inversion therapy. We suggest you start out at about 25-degrees of inversion for about the first two weeks. After that increase the slope to 60-degrees for each session over the next two weeks. And if you do choose to go to full inversion, it is best to do so only after the incremental 4-week time period.
However, if you feel you have an exasperation of your symptoms at any time while using inversion therapy then stop for a few days, allow your body to heal itself, then return to the inversion therapy at 25-degrees and begin again more slowly. Depending on your specific health condition, you may need to repeat this start/stop/start process several times. That is ok, as it is allowing your body to shift, correct, repair and shift again… until the healthful changes take hold.
Trigger Point Therapy
The hope of the self-directed trigger point system is that that you can get instantaneous relief. But remember, the trigger points will also be releasing some metabolic waste as you break them up with the therapy, which can lead to an exasperation of the symptoms. When this happens, stop and allow three or four days to pass for healing, then return to the therapy at half the duration as previously used. Then over time incrementally increase the duration again. You can use the same applicators, but do the therapy for half the amount of time.
All of this applies as well to massage therapy. If you are getting a massage and your body is full of metabolic waste, when the therapist presses and pushes you all that waste moves into your vascular and lymphatic systems that can lead you to experience an overload. This overload causes some people to get loosening of the stools, tender and sore muscles, queasy stomach, while others feel relaxed but with a dazed feeling overall. This happens because your body is processing so much metabolic waste material that has just been sitting in your body.
Most people don’t get a massage more than once per week, so the rest period is built in. However, you can decrease the duration of your next session and also ask the therapist to apply less pressure for a period of time. Then slowly increase intensity and duration over time until you can experience the full benefits of massage without the negative signs and symptoms.
I hope this article has shown that just because you may experience some adverse signs or symptoms from a specific therapy, it doesn’t mean you should stop the modality. Rather than trying and giving up on a treatment or method, I would prefer that you experiment with this process of: 1) starting it, 2) increasing it, 3) if symptoms arise then back off for a few days, 4) re-start the therapy at half the intensity, and 5) incrementally increase over time to the full time and intensity for maximum results.
This approach does not apply to prescription drugs, where a certain time, quantity and dosage is planned and watched by your physician. But for exercises, enzymes, inversion therapy, trigger point therapy or massage you can follow this Healing Process and I’ll bet that you’ll find over time that many of the treatments that you tried and quit in the past may over time benefit you greatly by doing and following this Healing Response Plan.
Written By: Updated: August 3,2011