Neuroplasticity with Dr. Joachim Farias

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Martine Menard with Patrick Finucan

Martine and I are new to the world of cervical dystonia. And fortunately the effects on Martine have not been as severe as many of you have experienced. Nevertheless, dystonia has altered the trajectory of Martine’s life and she now spends most of her waking hours dealing with and trying to lessen the
effects of cervical dystonia.

I am Martine’s husband. In our community I am known as an Anglophone. My first language is English. Martine’s first language is French. She is known as a Francophone. Martine is bilingual – much more so than me. But she is not completely comfortable writing in English. When Howard Thiel asked her to write about her experience with neuroplasticity at Dr. Farias 4 day workshop, she happily asked me to write something based on her input. Hmmm. Well here goes.

When told her diagnosis Martine immediately began doing research and searching for practitioners who could do something to help her. Like most of you she was not long learning that the medically accepted treatment is Botox injections. Without question the injections helped her. The swelling of muscles in her neck subsided. The intense contractions lessened. The pain became less severe.

But Martine was concerned about being permanently dependent on Botox. She worried about side effects. For instance, she read there could be impacts on her voice and on swallowing. And she is concerned that, over time, the benefits might lessen. She kept looking. Howard told her about the work of Dr. Farias. She immediately signed up for his workshop in Toronto in early February. That was before the symposium in Chattanooga. It was a bonus to learn that Dr. Farias would be presenting there.

Watching and listening to Dr. Farias in Chattanooga only heightened Martine’s interest.

The Toronto workshop began with explanations of the physiology that is at work in the neck and how it is affected by dystonia. Dr. Farias explained that his techniques were not going to cure the dystonia. He believes people are born with Dystonia or at least a predisposition toward it. He said he would be trying to help his clients self-manage their symptoms, be able to live more comfortably and reduce dependence on Botox.

Dr. Farias was not long before he began demonstrating physical movements and techniques. This involved very gentle movements and positioning of the head and neck to try and resist the twisting action of the muscle spasms. He carefully explained why he was doing each of the procedures and what he expected from each movement.

Gradually the participants acquired a catalogue of techniques and procedures to take home and use. Participants were allowed to have a companion with them in the workshop to help them conduct the movements and, presumably, to help with the administration of the procedures when they got home.

Martine was fortunate to have a friend attend with her. He made careful notes and is now in the process of showing me how to help Martine with the procedures requiring a second person.

Dr. Farias supplied a video of several of the self-administered exercises. I’m doing those exercises with her, twice a day. I’m hoping it’ll help with my golf swing.

Dr. Farias emphasized that his procedures would require long and patient practice. It is therefore much too early to judge the benefits. Martine is a determined and persistent person. She will be doing the exercises on an ongoing basis. You may be able to check with her in Rhode Island to see what progress she is making.

My mom and I wanted to thank you for hosting such a great symposium this year. This was our third year and we are looking forward to next years. E. Mathews