By Maria Harding
The fascial system is vital to everything the body does, but many people have never even heard of it! This sturdy network of tissue runs throughout the entire body, supporting our muscles, organs, nerves, and blood vessels. Because of its interconnection, when one part of the body suffers trauma due to injury, surgery, inflammation, or incorrect use, the binding and pain can linger and spread to other parts of the body. Myofascial release is a hands-on therapy technique that brings the body into better balance so that it can function optimally. It is the preferred manual therapy utilized by Shanna Paopao, physical therapist and owner of BodyWise Therapy in Omaha.
Shanna has been in practice as a physical therapist for 22 years. She finds that her ability to really listen to patients is the skill that allows her to be the most effective. “When I was in my first job in a skilled nursing facility, a woman who had just moved in started talking about how she felt about having to leave her home,” Shanna recalls. “When we were done, she said, ‘Well, we haven’t really done a whole lot of physical therapy today, but we had a good talk, and that was therapy in itself.’ That has stuck with me. There’s more to the world of physical therapy.”
Because the fascia within the body is so interwoven, the entire body can benefit from myofascial release, even when therapy is administered in a localized area. Circulation, lymphatic drainage, breathing, and sleep can all be improved when binding and pain are eased. In two decades of practice, Shanna has seen correlations in the body that astound her. “I’ve had it happen a number of times,” she confides. One woman came in for back and neck pain. She also had a lot of swelling in her legs, which seemed unrelated. After treatments, that swelling went down, and the client said she could think more clearly. Shanna describes herself as “logical” and very science-minded, but she has found confidence in following her instincts, too. “I’ve learned that I am more intuitive than I ever realized,” she shares.
It is ideal to have physical therapy services immediately after experiencing trauma, to minimize the stiffness and muscle weakness that set in as we heal. That said, physical therapy can help an old injury, too. Accommodating scar tissue, pain, or weakness by adapting the way we move, stand, or even sleep can affect areas of the body beyond those that were directly impacted. Shanna looks at the body as a whole, to make sure our adaptations are not causing harm. “You could have some little imbalances,” she explains. “This type of treatment will address things differently. I’m always hopeful there will be some change. Even people who don’t have pain can benefit.”
An entire section of BodyWise’s beautiful and informative website bodywiseomaha.com is dedicated to women’s health. Specifically addressed are the benefits of physical therapy following breast cancer surgery. Even an entirely successful surgery, Shanna notes, is still a trauma to the body. There will be health challenges that extend well beyond the initial crisis, and they may require a multifaceted approach to healing. Physical therapy and myofascial release can support lymphatic function, allow for full respiration, and help women regain strength, flexibility, and mobility.
Other aspects of women’s health that can benefit from physical therapy and myofascial release include painful menstruation or intercourse, bowel issues, and incontinence issues. “All of these areas have fascia surrounding and supporting,” Shanna explains. “If you have restrictions throughout your abdomen, then the intestines and other pelvic organs don’t have quite the mobility they may need.” A tilted pelvis, scarring, muscle weakness, and childbirth are all challenges that can cause lingering issues.
Individuals with diseases that affect mobility, such as arthritis, should consider consulting with Shanna. Damage to joints and the progression of neurological diseases cannot be reversed, but a comprehensive physical therapy program can ease stiffness, strengthen balance, and help sufferers get to a point of making an informed decision about how to proceed. “Sometimes, physical therapy helps people decide they really do need to have surgery, if the condition is bad enough,” Shanna clarifies. “On the other hand, it can help them feel better, and they know they can hold off.”
BodyWise nurtures connections on many levels—healing and balancing the fascial system itself, honoring the link between body and mind, and building trust in personal relationships. “Throughout my career, my connection with people is what I’ve always liked about being a physical therapist,” Shanna concludes. “I am an introvert, but I really value people. We need each other.” BodyWise Therapy is located at 2504 South 119th Street, in Omaha. To reach Shanna, call 402-932-8686 or visit bodywiseomaha.com.
Shanna Paopao, PT, Owner