Self-Care Practices For People with Spinal Fusions – Part 1

Self-care practices for people with spinal fusions are important. These practices are so important that this will be a three-part article! Self-care can help us to feel well physically, mentally, and emotionally. In this post, I’ll discuss self-care practices such as bodywork, manual therapy, and self-myofascial.

Pain Management for People with Spinal Fusions

I considered calling this series pain management for people with spinal fusions.  I’d like to believe that if we have strong self-care practices we won’t experience as much pain and discomfort.  Or perhaps our outlook on pain and discomfort might be different.  The truth is, the science of pain is quite complex.  Even though millions of people live with chronic pain, we don’t understand it well.  

If you are someone who is experiencing chronic pain, I highly recommend The Pain Management Workbook.  This book helped me to understand pain as a complex system that has biological, psychological, and social components.  It helps you to create a pain plan using tools that draw from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness, and neuroscience. 

Cover from The Pain Management Workbook

Self-Care Practices for People with Spinal Fusions

Those of us with spinal fusions are all so different.  You can read more about that in this article here.  What works as self-care for one person with a spinal fusion might not work for another.  My intention is that this series of articles can serve as an offering of options.  Let’s call it a buffet of self-care practices from which you might pick and choose.  I would love to hear what your plate looks like! 

These are all practices that either I currently use or have used in the past.  Or they are self-care practices that my clients or teachers use.  Finding the right self-care practices and practitioners for you at this time in your life is a process so please have persistence and patience. 

Bodywork, Manual Therapy, and Self-Myofascial Release as Self-Care Practices for People with Spinal Fusions

Self Care Practices for People with Spinal Fusions

This is an important category for many folks with scoliosis and/or spinal fusions as well as me.  It’s especially important for folks with spinal fusions because we’ve experienced the trauma of surgery, which includes anesthesia, incision, manipulation, placement of instrumentation, various bone grafting techniques, and suturing.  Bodywork, manual therapy, self-myofascial release, or a combination of these techniques can help keep the soft tissues around the fusion healthy and our nervous system well balanced.

Different Types of Bodywork 

  • Massage varies in approach. Some therapists focus more on fascia while others might focus more on skin, muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  • CranioSacral Therapy is a gentle hands-on approach that releases tensions deep with the body. Because craniosacral involves light touch folks with spinal fusions and scoliosis oftentimes respond well.   Here is an introduction to craniosacral therapy video as well as how often to get craniosacral therapy.
  • Scar tissue massage also varies in approach. The most effective scar tissue massage I experienced was gentle and extremely superficial.  The physical therapist softly stretched the skin out in all directions from one point to break up adhesions around my bone graft.  I’ve also experienced more aggressive forms such as Graston Technique, which uses a stainless-steel instrument.  This isn’t a technique I’d try again.
  • Rolfing® Structural Integration is a form of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues that permeate the entire body. I’ve never had this form of bodywork, and from what I understand it can be more intense.  Some folks find it very healing.
  • Acupuncture and dry needling use needles inserted into the skin. Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinse medicine and focuses on balancing flow or energy whereas dry needling focuses on trigger points within muscles. 
  • Cupping is also part of Traditional Chinese medicine where cups are used on the back to create suction. There are different approaches to cupping, and I’ve also had massage therapists use cupping as part of a session.
CranioSacral Therapy for People with Spinal Fusions

Functional Manual Therapy

Functional manual therapy is a specific form of manual physical therapy.  Manual therapy uses hands-on techniques to mobilize the muscles and joints.  Functional manual therapy is founded on the recognition that all tissues of the body are intricately interconnected.  As a result, efficient balance and movement requires a dynamic interaction between the mechanical, neuromuscular, and motor control systems.

How to Find a Practitioner

First and foremost, look for someone that listens and works with you as a collaborative partner.  I also like it when folks are knowledgeable while also very curious.  Oftentimes, these types of practitioners don’t have extensive expertise with spinal fusions or scoliosis.  I usually feel ok about that as long as someone doesn’t impose their ideas about scoliosis on me.  Oftentimes, I find that these ideas aren’t rooted in evidence or a large sample size. 

How to Find a Practitioner Checklist

Self-Myofascial Release

Sometimes in lieu of in person massage, I use a deep tissue shiatsu massager.  I love it and use it on my shoulders as well as calves.  But it can be strong so it’s not the right choice for everyone. There are other techniques for self-myofascial release as well such as Melt Method, Yoga Tuneup, and Yamuna.  These approaches might live between bodywork and movement practices.  Stay tuned for Part 2!

Self-Myofascial Release for People with Spinal Fusions