On Tuesday my dad and I made the drive out to Fayetteville, Georgia, a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta to have my first true session with Center IMT. It was during the intensive week where several people from the CenterIMT headquarters in Connecticut came down as well as Dr. Sharon Giammatteo, founder of integrative manual therapy. These intensive weeks only happen several times a year and it was by sheer coincidence that I happened to be in Atlanta during this time period.
I was told that I would be working with Sharon first that day not knowing that I was dealing with the head honcho. I made sure to promptly embarrass myself by discovering who she was after clearly displaying my complete ignorance. From there on out everything happened kind of fast. There were probably 10 or so spinal cord injuries all located in a medium-size room, spread about on various mat tables. Every one of them was being worked on by a specialist who repeatedly came to Sharon’s side to ask her questions. I laid flat my back and she put her right hand on my sacrum and her left hand was on the back of my neck. She closed her eyes and from time to time would ask me questions. She first wanted to know exactly how my accident happened. I then discussed with her my experiences since then with rehab and my approaches towards recovery, but she didn’t want me to discuss any problem areas I was having physically unless she asked. She said that she loses focus and wants to be led to the problem areas. I then discovered that she was somehow examining my body and being drawn to the unhealthy areas.
It was a very unexpected occurrence for myself as Sharon continued her evaluation. At that point I really did not understand what integrative manual therapy was all about but it was my belief that everything was completely medically based. My assumption seemed to be wrong however as I watched Sharon use in what my opinion was an extraordinary gift. When I questioned her, she modestly explained that anyone can do what she’s doing.
Things got even more interesting when she changed her focus to my spine and began to look for blockages in my spinal column. “C4”, she stated. “T2, T8, T12, L3”, she went on. I then began to get rather nervous not knowing that so many areas of my spinal cord had issues. She then told me that there was an area at the sacral level which had become stretched from a head impact, not necessarily at the time my injury. My fears quickly dissipated thankfully when she stated how pleased she was concerning my overall health. She was even more pleased to discover that my primary area of injury was very open and it would not take much to completely open a channel for nervous signals to travel.
She began to feel up and down my legs and stated that they did not contain muscle motility. She came back up to my spine, made some sort of adjustment which I can’t remember, went back down to the legs and stated, "I have opened your cord, you now have muscle motility." I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but my heart began to race as I looked down at my feet and wondered whether or not I could swing my legs off the edge of the mat and stand up. Sharon walked away for a few minutes and my dad and I stared at each other, wide-eyed not quite certain what had just occurred. I suddenly noticed a complete change in the sensation of my legs. They seemed heavy and the tingling sensations changed in feeling. Sharon came back a few moments later and explained that muscle motility was a natural rhythm of the muscles to contract and relax during the resting state. Regaining muscle motility is part of phase 1 of the Integrative Manual Therapy approach for spinal cord injuries, and leads to further recovery.
From there therapy specialist worked on my spinal cord, relieving pressure, breaking up scar tissue, and realigning the structure. They also work to my adrenal glands to relieve the shock which occurred at the time of injury. I tried to understand what each person was doing but still felt completely lost to what was actually going on. I had been thrown for a complete loop and was not expecting the experience to be anything like it was. The therapists were not healers in the normal sense, but were using their hands in various placements and movements to facilitate healing in my body. After several hours of this hands-on work I felt completely relaxed as if toxicity was pouring out of my body.
My basic understanding of CenterIMT is that they believe regeneration of the spinal cord does occur but there is something within the body that is blocking healing. It is their job to find out what these blockages are, fix them, and send a person down the path of healing. All the hands on work which takes place facilitates healing and gets the body to simply do what it already knows how to do. In order to get the body to reach its full maximum potential of healing it is necessary to treat the entire person and not just focus on the most clear problem at hand. The initial phases at Center IMT are not as focused on regaining function and movement, but balancing the entire system and creating a healthy human being. This overall state of health will propel the body into recovery. It is my opinion that center IMT takes the best things of Western medicine and the best things of Eastern medicine and puts them together to create a wonderful approach of healing.
I attended Center IMT all day Thursday where they mostly worked on my respiration. Sharon also relayed to me on Tuesday that I have a partially collapsed lung. I guess the only way to truly prove if that is true or not is to get an x-ray, but it was a very interesting occurrence on Thursday to find that after only a couple hours of hands-on therapy, my breathing had already become less shallow and I was taking deeper breaths. My breathing has continued to feel much stronger, as well as my body. My second session with the walker at Beyond Therapy on Wednesday went much better, and on Friday my trunk felt stronger than it ever has since my injury.
I still cannot bring myself to say what my exact plans are for the future, but the Atlanta area sure is putting up a strong case. The combination of Beyond Therapy, the integrative manual therapy approach, and an occasional visit to Austin for spiritual healing could be the path to healing which I’ve been looking for.