Chicago Health | Homepage
Stimulating Touch

Stimulating Touch

Astym treatment heals pain for the active and overweight

By Nancy Maes

The treatments for ankle sprains, muscle strains and other problems in the soft tissues of the feet and legs are well known: rest, cold compresses, anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy. But sometimes the standard remedies don’t get rid of the pain. That’s when a lesser-known therapy called Astym (pronounced “A-stim” stands for “stimulation”) is another option.

This noninvasive process, developed in collaboration with institutions including IU Ball Memorial Hospital and Ball State University, as well as a wide range of medical specialists, focuses on eliminating the cause of the problem rather than just treating the symptoms.

Sarah Macias, a physical therapist at Illinois Bone and Joint Institute in Glenview, underwent training to become certified in Astym. She uses ergonomically designed, handheld, blade-shaped acrylic tools during treatment to eliminate internal scar tissue.

“We use the analogy of spaghetti to explain the problem,” says Macias. “There are fibers in the muscle tissue that should be parallel to each other like spaghetti in a box so they all fit together and work together. When the muscles are overworked and injured, the body lays down scar tissue so the fibers lay down more haphazardly like cooked spaghetti and interrupt how the tissue can glide.”

Using scientifically developed movements, she runs the largest instrument up and down the skin to find a rough texture that indicates where the problem is occurring. Then smaller instruments are used on top of the skin to bring fresh blood flow and nutrients to the area, which stimulate regeneration of the soft tissue.

Macias points out that Astym is uncomfortable or painful for some patients during the procedure, but there is no pain after a therapy session. Astym treatments take place about twice a week over a period of four to six weeks. Because the procedure heals the dysfunctional tissue, the pain gradually diminishes. By the end of the treatment period, the tissue is healthy, and the pain is gone and will not return unless the area is reinjured.

“I can usually notice if the therapy is going to help patients after four or five sessions because when we remodel the tissue, it becomes much more pliable and stays that way unless it is reinjured,” says Macias. She also customizes stretching and strengthening exercises for the patients to do during the time period they are undergoing the treatment. “The benefit with Astym is that the patients are encouraged to stay active because you need to stretch the damaged tissue in the direction you want it to heal,” she explains.

Astym is effective, particularly for plantar fasciitis, the degeneration of the soft tissues that connect the heel and the toes. It is common among pro athletes, whose sports include running, jumping and landing as well as among people who choose running or dance aerobics as a regular part of their fitness routine, people who are overweight and those who have jobs that require long periods of walking or standing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 10 percent of people in the United States make about one million visits per year to medical professionals for treatment of plantar fasciitis. A variety of treatments includes wearing splints at night and adding orthotics in shoes for arch support. But in some cases, the problem becomes chronic, and the pain persists in spite of standard treatments. Astym can eliminate the pain completely because of its ability to stimulate the growth of healthy tissue.

Shea McClellin, a member of the Chicago Bears, suffered from the condition and is reported to have used Astym to treat it. It was also successful for Lincoln Park resident Larry Birch. He was used to running a couple of miles a few times a week then, about two-and-a-half years ago. When he was in his early fifties, he was running on a treadmill when he felt like he had strained a calf muscle.

“It almost felt like a rubber band was unwinding in my leg, and after 60 seconds, I had to stop running,” he says. He thought he had pulled a muscle, but after more than a year of standard treatments, he still felt the pain. He saw an orthopedic surgeon who took an MRI that showed that Birch had torn a muscle and that a ball of scar tissue had developed where the calf muscle attaches to the Achilles tendon. The specialist said surgery was not an option and that Birch would never be able to run again. What followed was about six months of physical therapy with no improvement. So his physical therapist at IBJ referred him to Macias for Astym.

“She could feel the scar tissue, and she basically scraped my leg,” he explains. “It was excruciating. I went home and ran up the stairs expecting to feel the pain I normally felt, and I felt nothing. I went back two days later, and in terms of relief, it was incredible. I tried fast walking on the treadmill, and then I started running, and I hadn’t run in more than two years.”

Birch, the CEO of a software company that manages clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, is no longer undergoing the treatment and now regularly runs four miles with no problem sans a little tenderness in the spot where he used to feel far more pain.

“It’s a miracle treatment that cured me so fast and so well, and there’s no risk,” Birch says.

Similar Articles

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Less cutting of tendons and ligaments can lead to quicker recovery By Kelly K. James Michael Floodstrand

Years of good blood sugar control helps diabetic hearts

Years of good blood sugar control helps diabetic hearts

Source: University of Michigan Day in and day out, for years on end, millions of people

Getting By: Private Patient Advocates Help Navigate Care

Getting By: Private Patient Advocates Help Navigate Care

Private patient advocates act as personal assistants, navigating care By Rhonda Alexander “Healthcare is complicated,” says Dan

The Future of Medicine Is Spelled Y-O-U

The Future of Medicine Is Spelled Y-O-U

Photo above: Mark Dunnenberger, PharmD. Courtesy of Jonathan Hillenbrand, Media Production and Photography, NorthShore University

The Science of Sciatica Pain

The Science of Sciatica Pain

By Laura Drucker A few years ago, I suffered from a herniated disc. The pain in

Articles By Category

Family Health

In The Know

CH Lifestyle

April 2017
Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
March 26, 2017 March 27, 2017 March 28, 2017 March 29, 2017 March 30, 2017 March 31, 2017 April 1, 2017
April 2, 2017 April 3, 2017 April 4, 2017 April 5, 2017 April 6, 2017 April 7, 2017 April 8, 2017
April 9, 2017 April 10, 2017 April 11, 2017 April 12, 2017 April 13, 2017 April 14, 2017 April 15, 2017
April 16, 2017 April 17, 2017 April 18, 2017 April 19, 2017 April 20, 2017 April 21, 2017 April 22, 2017
April 23, 2017 April 24, 2017 April 25, 2017 April 26, 2017 April 27, 2017 April 28, 2017 April 29, 2017
April 30, 2017 May 1, 2017 May 2, 2017 May 3, 2017 May 4, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6, 2017

Categories

Recent Comments

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Swing for the fences in the fight to Sideline Pancreatic Cancer

Enjoy a great night of baseball at Peoples Natural

VIEW ARTICLE
Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

Cost to give birth 1943 - Page 3 - Defending The Truth Political Forum

A Hazy Shade of Healthcare: What does tort reform

VIEW ARTICLE

Archives