Articles Published and Offered
More Coming Soon!
I am honored to have been published in my field, and in health related websites. I offer some of those articles here for your enjoyment. I also offer unpublished articles for future use. If you would like to publish them, order one on a favored topic, or link to these here in your publication or website, please contact me for permission, and I'd be happy to share.
Titles In Bold (with publication in parentheses) and word count
FASCIA-NATING RESEARCH by Kerry E McKenna, Certified Rolfer ™ (published in Massage Magazine Jan 2011) word count: 597 words
“How do I know it’s working?”
As more of our experiences as practitioners coincide and spread amongst disciplines, the need to explore HOW it all works grows as well. The leading edge of bodywork research is currently in the study of the myofascial system and how it behaves. Focus has been put on science meeting clinical and anecdotal observation, so that our bodywork practices can gain support from the “scientific evidence” that fascia does what we know it to do. New research also integrates the areas of physiology, neurophysiology, kinesiology and a dozen related fields that are on the forefront of new information, evolving beyond simple and well-worn mechanical models. There is always more to know, but fascial research in my opinion seems to be one of the most direct inroads to meeting (traditionally) dissection-driven medicine with holistic therapies.
The Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration was founded on the principles of Ida Rolf, PhD, from her research of the fascial tissue and networks which factored into her namesake method, and crossed influence with many exercise and body works (notably Feldenkrais and Pilates). So, logically, part of the mission of the Rolf Institute is to promote research into fascia and Structural Integration (through the Ida P. Rolf Foundation which funds research in structural integration), and being a frontrunner in the formation of the biennial Fascia Research Congress, staging its third International meeting in 2011. The collective vision of these groups, and many other researchers, is to shed light on the facts of fascia, and invite practitioners and researchers from all disciplines to engage in discussions, presentations and workshops.
Dr. Robert Schleip, a Certified Advanced Rolfer™, Feldenkrais Practitioner, and Faculty at the European Rolf Institute® training facility in Munich, has been pursuing data regarding myofascial systems since 2006 at Ulm University in Germany, teaching his groups’ findings as they unfold. “… the most promising aspects for me are the role of fascial microinjuries in many cases of low back pain, and how new imaging methods will be able to detect those cases in order to…recommend fascial treatment (rather than disc surgery or muscle training).”
Within the many sources he offered was a discovery about kangaroos (and gazelles) that directly informs the world of exercise training (paraphrased): Kangaroos’ leg muscles don’t comprise most of the force of its jump, but the fascial web’s spring is the stored-energy force that maintains such great repeated performance. (Müller, Schleip) Their work can be found on the teams’ website at the Fascia Research Project, Institute of Applied Physiology, Ulm University, Germany.
Practitioners themselves can get involved with research on many levels. Helen James, a Certified Advanced Rolfer™ in California has collected over 700 client statistics on range of motion, with support from the Rolf Institute. She has published, and will be presenting her findings this year. The Institute is now also including preparation on research practices within the program for certification. The Fascia Research Project at Ulm will be accepting applications for brief fascia research internships at their laboratory (www.fasciaresearch.de). And participation at the Fascia Research Congress in 2011 will certainly update you as to the direction you might go in your curiosity
What’s new in research may not be the method, nor the findings—sometimes we’re learning what we already know—but that we are bridging the gap with data that supports what we see in our sessions. Our difficulty with terms and quantities becomes surmountable. We use the empirical data to excite our minds, find references and open our imagination to what’s possible, and yes, someday we may know how it works.
CLEARING THE COBWEBS THIS FALL by Kerry E McKenna (published in an ezine 2014)
I heard a good joke suggestion for Halloween: "Don't bust your gut housecleaning for Halloween. Use your dust and cobwebs AS decorations." That makes perfect sense, but...
In the autumn of the year, whether you live where the leaves fall, you will find that mold and dust will be making a featured appearance. Even if you aren't allergic to it, the presence of higher counts of spores can affect your breathing. Fall is usually wetter than summer, so all sorts of mold counts rise, as well as a new cold/flu season. We tend to also close the windows against the cooler temperatures, which can make the indoors stale.
One good way to keep your air passages flowing is to reduce amounts of dust and other particulates in your house. Cleaning your air ducts, wiping off your fan blades (ceiling fans, tabletop or floor fans), even in your kitchen range hood, if applicable), vacuuming your carpet and wiping the floors are all ways to keep the dust out of your lungs (at least after you're done).
Remember that electronics attract dust by electromagnetic static, so a round of cord cleaning can perk up the air, in addition to cleaning the computer keyboard, where you probably spend a lot of breathing time, let's face it. Sweeping and dry dusting usually just disperses the dust, until it settles again. A damp rag is best to trap it.
Remember, inspiration is the word for "taking in air". So if you want to feel fully inspired in your life endeavors, you'll want all the oxygen you can handle, and that means staying away from areas where pollution is rampant or smoking is taking place. Other negative smells, like "alley after a bad weekend" or "dirty dishes left in the sink" should be minimized. Heavy colognes or chemical perfumes (those fake candle smells) can also leave your lungs uninspired.
Try a more organic candle option, with a lighter scent. Or use cut branches from evergreen trees or eucalyptus (well rinsed and clear of spider webs and dust) as a way to fragrance the air. When you are not happy with the odors in the air, your body subconsciously takes shallower breaths, until the air is clear. This can lead to dull headaches and mounting tension. Breathing fresh air, though, has been linked to better moods and clearer thinking!
Here's a new idea: Give yourself a break from your hair and cosmetic products and try some natural recipes for deodorant using baking soda and coconut oil, or find an unscented skin cream. Just a short break from artificial scents (or just too-familiar scents), can remind your nose that inspiration is just a sniff away. Better still, find an outdoor place you love to walk around, and breathe! It can be surprisingly inspiring.
A PAINED PROCESS written by Kerry E. McKenna, Certified Rolfer™ (published for the trade pub. Rolf Journal of Structural Integration 2015, Rolf Institute ® of Structural Integration June 2013) Word count: 2,721
In my favorite movie, Amélie, her love interest is trying to follow a path she has laid our for him, and he is stopped in front of a statue that points up to the next hill and clue. A child chides the dim hero with an old proverb, roughly translated as “When someone points at the sky, only a fool looks at the finger.” (Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (original title) 2001, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Director). Pain is the finger that points at the sky. The Rolfer™ is there to help that client, instead, to examine the sky and relate it to the finger, not to simply remove, nor to be mesmerized by, the finger.
Talking about pain itself becomes a verbal model of the complications existing around pain. Let me illustrate: When a client asks me what is causing a pain symptom (and they ask, because they don't presume to know), “Is IT my old knee surgery scars?” “Is IT my herniated disk?” “Is IT the way I sit at my desk?” I always ask around the IT, instead of try to answer specifically. IT is a trap. “Do you have an idea?” I ask back. “Well, it hurts here...” they'll begin. My usual follow up becomes toask about the pain, to gather as much information as I can about how the client uses language and gestures to describe their experience. I try to avoid coming to conclusions on the causes. It is my experience that once people's minds reach a conclusion, new information has less of a chance to penetrate. For example, a client is convinced they have one short leg, and concludes that the discomfort in his back will always be there because he'll never change his legs' lengths. We may not change the leg length, but we may affect the discomfort anyway. How about them apples? We can make dangerous or obstructive assumptions about pain like “probably a nerve impingement,” or “sounds like a muscle tear” and lose the trail of a more complete system—a system that maintains the pain symptoms. I am wary of being distracted and losing the clues that will lead me to great heights.
Pain is not the enemy. Why are we taught to try and rid ourselves of it?
As a Certified Rolfer (with no other field of practice per se), my scope of knowledge revolves around the physical sensations which anchor the experience for us both. Relating the pain to the body brings us back around to talking about sensations again, where our information is. It's the safe spot of Paying Attention again, and in due time, I am leading the questioning solidly out of the pain locale and into a general realm. “Whatelse do you feel?” This new line of questioning is meant—in short-- to lead us away from the distraction that pain can be, and relieve us both from the duty of fixing the problem, away from the cause/effect model and away from coming to conclusion. Some clients are gifted at feeling a banquet of other sensations and some need our gentle prompting.
Primarily, we focus on the release of constricted tissue. In practice, I spend ten series after ten series following the logic that if I can help a body balance it's tensional forces, people's pain will either release its hold as we proceed, or it will eventually, with patience, lose the war of attrition to better posture in the long run. At the threshold of considering Advanced Training, naturally I feel the squeeze to know how to handle one-off appointments, where clients legitimately hope for immediate relief. Rolfing S.I. as a system does not lack the agility to address pain directly, but even if “relief” is realistically understood, and the client will forgive its brevity, is there not a larger responsibility, to address the mind/body and to respect the role of pain in its family of experience?
BACK TO THE SKY
While I endeavor to pay attention to the whys and wherefores of a specific injured tissue, I also need to remember that a client's pain is an intimate experience. Each person has an intimate, sometimes complicated relationship with their pain. That relationship is as much part of the maintenance of pattern as it is key to relief, equal to other factors. The relationship he or she has with Pain in General is a very interesting question. This question trumps all healing attempts and excursions off the bat. The clients may not know the nature or sensation in detail, or want to be too curious. The answers to How Do You Feel About Pain in General will be the basis for their whole experience, facilitate and block, spread caution or trust in proportion. They came to us, presumably to be free of pain, without ultimate awareness of how “pain-free” can be achieved. That's what we're here for, whether we lead them to ultimate freedom from pain, or lead them to their own acceptance of pain among the relationships of the mind/body family.
Recently, I have had a string of clients that had just “had enough” of their pain. Acute or chronic, pain had plagued them for months and years to some degree. I'm sure we have all had our share of clients with pain we have wanted to instantly make vanish with the wave of a magic wand. And we have all held off, in the better judgment, to find a way to enable a body to support itself more ideally. Through Ida Rolf's principles that gravity is the organizing factor, we instead encourage ease within gravity, which will, I presume to say, transcend pain, andenable the alleviation of it, at least as long as postural alignment can be judged a major contributor.
Obviously, the pain of a broken leg should stop a body in its tracks. But even the dull pain of depression can be described as a way to slow down, alerting the sufferer to pay attention to their lives in a new way. The act of paying attention ideally brings enough information to find a way to adjust the system, generally and specifically--a system that has, in effect, supported the painful condition—to shift it to support a resulting pain-free system. In other words, the relationships around the pain shifts focus away from the locus of the sensation of pain on to a host of other information.
But “Relationship” is still the main issue. For one facet, the client's relationship to their own pain is a point in the tensegrity model of their mind/body. One cannot work without it, or ignore it either to maintain or to relieve the pain. Other basic facets are: Their relationship to their body, judgments about pain, attitudes about relief (never sees doctor, takes lots of medicines, or “walk it off, sissy”), patience, trust, and the perceived skills of their helpers and more...all of these things hold place in the mind/body system, just as any bone holds place and relates to a structural model of the body.
How do we know how a client deals with these factors? The questions we ask about a client's body is the most obvious opportunity to demonstrate real respect for how they feel about pain. But first, and frequently forgotten-- how does the Rolfer feel about pain?
I'll be honest. Like most practitioners, I'm afraid of not relieving the pain. I'm afraid of re-injuring someone when they need healing the most. That is about me—without examining these attitudes, I run the risk of unconsciously imposing my fear or agendas onto my client. To sincerely put away my fear, acknowledging it and releasing it each time it arises, I can be responsible for the task at hand, and endeavor to remain as neutral as I can for the sake of uncovering the client's attitudes, which are supremely pertinent.
Another major factor in my relationship to pain in general is my physical history with pain and injury in my body, which can also be a silent participant in the healing room if I don't acknowledge it. My story began with the migraines I had as a baby my whole early life. I was strong and athletic but these headaches put me down twice a month for twenty-four years before my first Rolfing series cleared the relationships that led to the pattern. Before Rolfing, though, I learned to pay attention to how I felt because of the pain itself. Warning signs, triggers, pressure points--the pain was motivating me to figure out how to relieve it! In addition, “my headaches” became part of my identity, how I got attention and was forgiven weakness, even as I was miserable with it. Long story short, my relationship with my pain became one of detailed curiosity, patience, “specialness” and resignation as well. I can't expect every (nor any) client to have the same tensigrity model of pain attitudes as I have. I have to listen and interact with what they are reporting and applying my curiosity, patience and resignation to their whole system.
While the pain legitimately takes up a lot of attention, if a client is encouraged to feel what ELSE is present in the body, the healing can take hold perhaps better or more confidently. I ask questions that leave space for the acknowledgment of the discussion, letting them fill in the blanks. As I was taught, I use statements of validation to prompt trust and confidence in whatever language or gestures they use to explore and describe their experience. I Let my language stay neutral to an idea of pain in my own vocabulary. I try and pick up non-verbal cues to their acceptance or rejection of my touch or information. Questions that occur to me frequently include: Are they not wanting to pay attention to sensation? Paying deep attention but not talking about it? Never taking suggestions of exploring on their own? Coming in with discoveries despite the presence of persistent pain? Keeping open to answers to these questions and more are all ways of cluing in to the client's approach and attitudes.
And as always, having patience and respect for the wisdom of their mind/body models the truth that we can't speed up or impose the results we'd rather see, nor can they.
CLOUDS MOVE SLOWLY—A BEAR BECOMES A BUNNY
I had a mechanic in Atlanta who was absolute gold. I could bring my car in and it'd be perfect in a day, never costing more than necessary. But while he could fix the car as soon as look at it, he always asked me the questions that led me to detail my experience, which was indispensable quality when I had a real mystery to solve. “Its brake pedal becomes soft sometimes, and then I smell chemicals and then they give out, but only every six months.” It was an improbable problem to have. “When the brakes cool down a while the problem goes away and it's fine.” Of course he could take it from there. But he asked me about the smell some more. And what did I mean by soft and how long did they go soft before the smell came, and the giving up? Did any of these things happen independently of the others? He couldn't find anything mechanically wrong. But he believed me. And when my brakes really fried out in a scary episode, I limped it into Mr. Clarke's and we replaced them. Twice in two years.
His ability to tap into my relationship with my car gave me the trust in him that I needed to eventually get the dangerous problem solved. And even if the brakes weren't to be immediately fixed, I maintained patience and dedication to it because he valued and respected my relationship to my car when other experts did not. Eventually, it was only my close attention to the patterns after the third brakes failure that led to a discovery that the pin got stuck open or closed at the random times, doing damage that had little regularity. A car is a machine, but there's also the driver's relationship with the car that can save its self-destruction.
CLOUDS EQUAL COTTON BALLS
So far, I've been talking about the pain of injury, stuckness and of mis-alignment in gravity. But pain is relevant to the client and Rolfer by way of the pain of healing itself. Structural Integration has deserved its historical reputation as a painful process, though it is no longer necessarily so. Still, in any modality, we can acknowledge the discomfort of a body's healing process, even to speak of a scab over a cut beginning to itch as it knits. In training at the Institute, I learned the tool of asking a client to let me know when the pain they feel under my hand feels like a 4 out of 5 or higher, so I could gauge my pressure. After a time, I have retired that practice, because I found that it made more of my clients nervous under my touch. Maybe putting the question out there touched on my inner fears, but I've noticed positive results in not asking the question this way. My experience is that if I did ask them to gauge the working pain:
- I'm telling them I may go too far, which they will look out for with a preconceived vigilance in the nervous system.
- I'm telling them that I'm afraid of hurting them, which sets up the idea that I may not be trusted or confident in my approach, and
- That pain is not acceptable. Some clients are led to pay attention only to volume of pain not always quality of sensation.
- In regards to number three, paying attention to sensation is primary in integrative work precisely because integration means we accept a certain amount of all sensations, including pain, and find their appropriate messages.
Most clients do not have much ambiguity around pain and do not feel shy about expressing its presence (if nonverbally sometimes), but still I prefer to ask the client to describe any “sensations” as we work together, and to let me know what they need from me as we go along. I find that this encourages them to say, “I need less pressure” or “I need to stop you” if that is the case. When encouraging a client to expand their personal awareness, it is often more successful to trust them to feel more subtlety before they even have the confidence to do so—like asking a leg to bend cleanly when we know it will twist on the way, but we work to make “cleanly” the goal. [I would like to emphasize that I'm marking my disuse of the 1-5 scale as an example, not a recommendation to anyone else who find the 1-5 model useful for clients to find power and confidence in that method.]
Pain is part of life. In one of my favorite movies, there is a great line: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” (The Princess Bride, Rob Reiner Director, 1987) One of the motivations in a long and happy life is to be as healthy as possible, to enjoy pain free days and nights. Too often, our chief complaints as humans revolve around the aches and discomforts that denote chronic misalignments, and indeed Rolfing® Structural Integration can take a huge chunk out of the discomfort of patrons. At the same time, we also attempt to make sense of things that are not pointed out from the actual pain of the client. It is our job, as agents of integration, to help humans to move from the rejection of pain and the medical model that pain must be relieved as quickly as possible (and sometimes at great future cost), into a clearer understanding of its part in the whole—which of course is a matter of individual meaning. Like clouds in the sky, the viewer sees what she sees.
“About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
its human position; how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window
or just walking dully along.”
-W.H. Auden “Musee des Beaux Arts,” 1940