What path lead you to Squamish, Donna?
I have been practicing in the Sea to Sky corridor for 11 years. When I originally started working I was interested in orthopedics and rehab after traumatic injury. I spent 5 years working at Peak Performance in Whistler learning about joints from Allison McLean, Vicki Powell and Bianca Matheson who are all talented physios before moving to Squamish.
How have your interests in clinical practice evolved over the years?
Initially, my focus was how trauma effects function of joints and soft tissue. Around the time I moved to Squamish, I started to become more interested in how the whole body plays a role in function and that no injury can be limited to a single shoulder or a bum knee etc. It was clear to me that there was a bigger picture here. Everything is connected. For example a shoulder affects how you move through your pelvis and the diaphragm has fascial connections to the psoas (hip flexors) and the viscera have fascial connections to the soft tissue which can affect function. Not to mention wellness requires the whole being to be healthy. Pain can result from mental and spiritual discontent as well musculoskeletal dysfunction.
Where have your most recent interest taken you?
I am currently very interested in all of the fascia research being done. With that in mind, I just attended the World Fascia Research Conference in Amsterdam. It was a global conference of scientists and clinicians who are interested in the fascia which until recently was ignored and believed to have no function. However the more we learn about it, we realize that fascia plays a major role in proprioception (our awareness of where we are in space) and force transmission (or how we move in space). Fascia also connects the whole body in continuous sheets like the membranes of an orange. You are connected from your toes to your head. Your soft tissue is not discreet, in that the fascia encases and connects muscles, tendons and ligaments and that the forces that help suspend your body need to be balanced. When they are not people have pain.?How would you describe your treatment philosophy? It is important to remember that when someone comes into the clinic, they have a unique history and experience of pain and injury. Their body is like a snowflake in that each one is different than all of the rest. What makes my job so engaging and stimulating is empowering clients to understand their bodies in a new and healthier way. My treatments enable them to learn to move differently and therefore interact in the world differently, and ideally, in a pain-free way.
Can you give an example of a time when you were really able to empower and literally help transform your client’s health?
I remember once treating a client who had come in with significant nerve pain due to two herniated discs in her back. Normally she was very active and had been a competitive athlete. By the time I saw her she was struggling to walk, sit and work let alone ride a bike or ski. Her quality of life had been greatly diminished. I enjoyed helping educate her why she was in the state she was in. Through a thorough history we discovered how years of competitive skiing and riding layered with many injuries, she had adopted a strategy of living in her body that was causing a hypermobility of her lumbar spine. With the help of regular massage and some physio, she was able to get back to pain free range of motion and racing her bike again. It required that we look at her body as a whole organism and that she had to change how she lived in her body. It took some time but it was very rewarding to help someone be pain free and get their life back again.
Can you explain a bit more about your interest in fascia and it’s role in musculoskeletal pain?
My interest in fascia has lead me to take courses in visceral massage and fascial release to allow better movement of the whole body. It is important that the whole structure of someone’s body is integrated in it’s movement, that tightness and dysfunction in one area does not affect other parts of the body. To give you an analogy imagine pulling a hose around your house from the front to the back yard. It gets caught on a tree and the flower beds and the corner of the house so by the time you get it to where you want it, it’s not long enough. This is the same idea with fascia. It can be restricted in its movement at your foot and your hip but it is your neck that hurts. Until this mobility is improved elsewhere, your neck will continue to be a problem.
What’s next for you as far as your studies and further learning are concerned?
One of my goals for my trip to the World Fascia Research Conference was to find some world class mentors. I am looking forward to learning from some of the best in the world at future courses. I am going to be taking a course starting in February that covers the entire body integrating fascia, craniosacral and visceral techniques. It is a great opportunity to practice some hands on techniques with teachers who have “magic hands”.
If you could sum up “wellness” in your terms, how would you describe it?
Wellness is a place of contentment within the body where we can essentially roll with the punches whether they be injuries or just the day to day stresses of life. In a sense, it means resiliency for life’s events. I really enjoy helping others along the path to their own wellness. It is a truly rewarding experience.
Thank-you Donna for your insights.
You can book an appointment with Donna on Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays through our online booking calendar in the right hand sidebar.