Inspiration to Embrace Whole Being Wellness
Making Priorities, Having Faith, Educating Myself & Rehabilitating my Body with Abbie Brown
I, as a person who have (I almost feel like I should say HAD), very crippling torticollis for 20 years felt strongly that I needed a very specific exercise program to rehabilitate. I took a lot of steps to help myself maintain a good quality of life: chose my priorities in life (family and friendship), educated myself, maintained healthy nutrition, prayed to God, and committed to muscle therapies. Recently, one of the most rewarding steps was to attend Abbie Brown’s Spasmodic Torticollis Recovery Clinic (STRC). I hope this story of the steps I’ve taken helps inspire you. All of my steps have been integral in maintaining my quality of life. However, if I had to pick just one thing you should try for your physical symptoms- it would be the STRC. I feel that I experienced 90% RECOVERY from my physical symptoms within FIVE MONTHS after going to Abbie Brown’s STRC! I can’t say enough about that program. After following her program I have a straight neck and head with only a slight periodic limitation and ‘catch’ im motion.
I’ll take you back to the beginning of the onset of Spasmodic Torticollis for me. At age 37 I was playing a foursome game of tennis while on vacation when the ball went over the 3 ½ foot fence. Being closest to the ball, I took a running jump over the fence, got my whole body over with my right toe just grazing the top rail. With that I started going head first in a different direction towards a bench so I quickly diverted my body towards another, less-fatal direction. When I landed on my hands with my body twisted and my feet still up in the air the momentum of my whole body was absorbed into the area of my head, neck, arms and scapular region.
Since I landed on the grass, I got up without a scratch, went back onto the court (I went through the gate this time) and resumed playing tennis after the three stunned people, including my husband, stood there speechless for a minute. A little later there was a severely painful snap the size of a dime in my right scapular area which took my breath away and brought me to a sudden halt from playing. A minute later the pain went away and I began the game again.
In the following couple of days a stiffness started in the neck and shoulder area but there was no pain. In the morning, after sleeping, it seemed better. Still on vacation, a couple nights later, out to dinner, my head just started rotating on its own – just a little, but still no pain – just stiffness.
As soon as I got home, I made an appointment with my chiropractor. Fortunately, he did not believe in manipulating the neck. Six months later, as it was only getting worse, he diagnosed me with chronic/tonic torticollis. That was in 1982. My chiropractor was young, smart, well read and dedicated and one of the few that would have recognized this problem.
I’ll give you an idea of what my life was before ST. My husband, Joe, and I were raising two girls, 10 and 7. Joe is a physical therapist and I was working as an art consultant with a company that dealt with artists all over the world. I loved this new business.
Along with helping the children with homework assignments, getting them to their sporting practices and events and their church activities, I also was very active personally as well. I was taking dance lessons, singing lessons, and 2 art classes. I was also singing in the church choir, volunteering in the children’s schools, being an active member in a civic association, playing co-ed volleyball along with my husband one night a week, playing racquetball at a local club, teaching Sunday School and gardening quite a bit. I loved my life with family and friends. During the initial period following my accident (April to September of 1982), I didn’t stop any of my activities. I had confidence that the problem would work itself out and nobody had told me to stop my activities. I still had plenty of energy even though I had stiffness and it felt like parts of my body deep inside were cemented together and couldn’t move.
Then one morning in September, I woke up with my head over near my left shoulder and I couldn’t get it back up. That was the beginning of my severe debilitation that made it difficult to move from one room to another. There was also burning pain – the kind you get when you have over-worked your muscles like carrying something that is much too heavy for a very long period of time. As soon as I would lie down, and my muscles were not straining, I felt more normal. I quickly had to give up most of my strenuous physical activities which was torture for me since I always felt good with my body in motion. However, I found that a lifesaver for me was that I was able to dance to music at home – but I could not continue with the dance class since that dancing was structured. Irregular motions were do-able. Unfortunately, after 8 years of dancing for 45 minutes almost every single day for that endorphin high, I somehow realized that I had to give that up because my back was curving more and more.
I also noticed was that my muscular breathing became abnormal. My diaphragm, I later realized, was so tight and my ribcage was not expanding at all in certain areas. My breathing became more shallow because deep breaths would cause my neck to go over more. I was not even able to sing standing up because of this. I did immediately learn that I was able to sing sitting in the car. Later, I felt with my hand that there was a “garden hose” going down right from the base of the sternum to my bellybutton. “What the heck is this?” I asked many professionals. When I met the founder of the Pennsylvania School of Muscle Therapy, she informed me that it was the aorta under extreme tension. Another dramatic change was that since my neck was so tight on the left front side I could not get a pulse in the left carotid artery when I was up and about. Because of this my pulse rate during the day was consistently l30 beats per minute – for at least a couple years.
How I Chose to Live & Improve My Quality of Life
There was no choice but to responsibly re-focus on the things that were totally necessary – not only for others but for myself as well. I knew I had to focus on preserving the well-being of the entire family. There were certain family responsibilities that I would not give up even though every task was physically brutal to perform. For example, eating fresh food and having great nutrition is a key component of my belief system so I chose to continue leaning my head down to peel fresh vegetables. I wanted my children to continue, uninterrupted, in all their activities: school, church, and sports. I also chose to continue planning family events and neighborhood picnics. Another priority was to maintain strong friendships. And—my gift from God was that no matter how physically violent my body was when I was up and about or how exhausted I was, when I finally laid down my muscles felt almost normal after 5 minutes in bed. So every evening, I was able to look back and enjoy the peaceful fact that the family was still very functional and together. I was able to enjoy any night time activity- like watching TV that is- ha!
Beliefs and Faith
Early on, because of the violence of this disorder, one of my first prayers to God was:
- That I would not die and leave our children without a mother – at first onset I thought maybe it could be fatal– it sure felt like it
- I would not become a total invalid
- That I would not go insane (my family seriously questions whether this prayer was answered correctly)
Many more prayers have been said that I credit with my health today. Of course, following up on God’s direction was the key for me. Many enjoyable activities were given up – but the invaluable experiences, people, knowledge, ideas, and help that I’ve received have been so awesome that I REALLY BELIEVE a comment I made to my mom one day when I was at my worst – “Right now this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me, BUT, WHEN I get better, and I KNOW I will, it will be the best thing that ever happened to me.”
Education & Becoming Informed
I began a serious quest for education on getting better. I was blessed to have had an education in psychology and biology and was always fascinated in learning about the mind-body connection. Before I had children, I taught science and then, for three years, worked in biological research. I took a few adult education classes at night in nutrition later on. So, after the onset of torticollis, it was only natural for me to start learning along the natural healing route. Also, Botox was not on the market in 1982 and I soon learned from calling all over the country, and in Canada also, that no neurologist that I spoke to, “SUCCESSFULLY” treated torticollis.
I began my new education by reading a book “Beyond Ourselves” by Katherine Marshall – a compilation of short stories on how people had their health restored – sometimes completely but not always physically, but always emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I learned from Touch for Health courses, courses at the Center for Human Integration, the study of Macrobiotics (health benefits of vegetarianism) going for Shiatsu, Rolfing (very deep body work) Deep Muscle Therapy, which led me to go back to school to become a Massage Therapist (MT). I read other inspirational books such as “Anatomy of an Illness”, Recalled by Life”, The Power of Positive Thinking.” I kept my ears and eyes in tune for any idea that would point me in the right direction.
Abbie Brown’s Spasmodic Torticollis Recovery Clinic (STRC) for Whole Being Wellness- Muscle Exercises, Massage, Nutritional Guidelines, and Prioritizing Spiritual. Mental & Emotional Wellbeing
Through a series of events, I was introduced to information on Abbie Brown’s Spasmodic Torticollis Recovery Clinic (STRC), the only recovery clinic in the world for ST. My husband and I traveled to New Mexico in 2002, 20 years after my onset of torticollis, which remained extremely debilitating and limiting for that period of time.
I believe that torticollis is so complicated that, as it turns out, only a very spiritual person who suffered the agonizing debilitating, life-zapping grip of this condition, was given the opportunity to help to solve this devastation for many people all over the world, including myself. I wasn’t “chosen” to find the answers to this devastating problem, but Abbie was. Many people covering the globe thank God and Abbie for this gift. The STRC addresses whole-being wellness.
In the plane on my way home from the 4-day clinic, I began practicing the priceless recommendations. I can’t tell you the weight that was lifted off my mind of “What am I going to do next?” What a difference from compared to a time when thinking about dying had been on e of my recurring thoughts. I learned that the body can be molded back into the right direction by repetitive motion in that right direction. Abbie teaches head to toe exercises, since torticollis is often times a full body problem, not just a neck problem (my right foot was eventually turned outward). ST creates a complicated mess of the neuro-muscular system. This mess can be retrained and provide great improvement in symptoms. STRC takes a comprehensive approach to recovery – deepest muscles, tendons, ligaments in the body are addressed. When the easiest exercises that Abbie teaches are perfected, then one will notice that the more difficult exercises become easier, and so on. But — also, hands on Deep Muscle Therapy or Massage Therapy is a necessity to break up any residual binding down of tissue the exercise cannot address and it facilitates the coordination of the muscles’ interaction with one another, bringing blood and oxygen to areas of the body that need further healing. Also, nutritional, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are addressed at the clinic. And – The wonderful gift that keeps giving is the one that Abbie sent to me after leaving New Mexico She sends a year’s subscription of the ST/Dystonia Newsletter after one returns home from her program.
After I went home and continued the program, I found that keeping a log on any little improvement I felt over each 2 week period was very beneficial – because as Abbie says “The body fights against what you’re doing, because some areas are so fixed that they can’t let go right away. “You’ll get worse before you get better.” I didn’t believe it, but it’s true – so writing down the small things that keep getting better is the best thing to focus on during the times of discouragement. Then, that hope builds up momentum. STRC – IT WORKS – DO IT! After 20 long years of being imprisoned in my own body, after four months of working at the STRC program I was 80% better! The other thing I’ll tell you here is that I have never taken Botox. The STRC takes diligence, belief and effort – but that is so little compared to what you’ve gone through so far.
One other very important thing I want to add right now is this. Our youngest daughter, 5 years ago was involved in a car accident. A short while after the accident, her neck started pulling and rotating with an inability to turn in the opposite direction. She never said anything to us until a few months later. As soon as she told us , I gave her Abbie’s program – she’s back to work, never took Botox – she’s still left with some stiffness, but I know the answers will come to resolve that also.
Further Rehabilitating My Body: Myofascial Release
After improving so much to the point of being able to add more into life, I have experienced additional results by adding Myofascial Release to the Deep Muscle Therapy. Fascia is the un-interrupted network of connective tissue throughout the body that surrounds every muscle, bone, organ, cell, etc. It is my firm belief that this bound down fascia plays a major role in dystonia. STRC, muscle therapy and nutrition corrected 85% of the dystonia. Some areas of fascia are big, very tough sheets of connective tissue such as the sheet located near the trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles. I still could not sit down and bend over straight to the floor. A husband and wife team, massage therapists, leaned their elbows and body weight into the areas of the back that I directed them to. For 7 minutes they leaned with a lot of strength until the tissue finally gave and ever since I have been able to bend down straight. Both therapist and patient can feel the underlying tissue “give”. It’s quite dramatic and can give more freedom of movement immediately!
To my knowledge, there is no diagnostic tool for detecting fascia that is bound down. Maybe someday there will be. But, in the meantime, we know that we have this strong restriction deep inside our bodies.
My Hope for This Article
I hope my story and testimonials help you treat your symptoms. Thank you so much, Howard and staff, for your wonderful dedication of getting so much needed information out to the public. God bless you all.
Christine E. Scheideler
Delran, New Jersey
I've found your web site the most helpful of them all. The way it's written really has helped me. Kristi, New Zealand