Discussion #3743

About the MELT Method®

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In this discussion, you will learn about the MELT Method® from the creator, Sue Hitzmann. She shares what inspired her as well as how we can use it to be healthy, active, and pain-free. She explains the 4Rs of MELT and how they can rehydrate our connective tissue so that our nervous system will function more efficiently.
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Apr 06, 2019
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Well, thanks everybody for being here. I'm Sue Hitzmann, I'm the creator of the MELT Method, and MELT, in it of itself, is a simple self-care technique to help people get out and stay out of chronic pain in as little as 10 minutes a day. We use softballs and rollers and we teach people how to rehydrate their connective tissue to do one thing in particular, which is to help our nervous system function more efficiently. And I have been in the fitness industry now since the early '90s actually. I've started in the '80s when there were basically just a few techniques that we could do.

We could do calisthenics and high-impact aerobics. I was Jazzercise-certified many, many years ago, and I grew up in the '70s and '80s boom, where the people that epitomize longevity and wellness, where people like Jack LaLanne and Jane Fonda in the 20-minute workout in the PBS Good Morning Show, The Morning Stretch. So, I have always been obsessed with longevity. I had a great grandmother who went from being very young and spry and chipper to, one year I went back, and didn't know who I was. She didn't know my name.

She thought I was my mother, and I went back to my aunt, asking, what happened to great grandma? She said, "She just got old," and I said, are you gonna get old, and she said, "Yes." and said, I'm gonna get old? And she said, "Yes." How do you stop this from happening? So, I went back to my mother saying, we are all dying very fast. We need to do something about this.

And I got really obsessed with this idea of aging and longevity and it was really what got me into this world. And because what epitomized that wellness were people like Jack LaLanne fitness was what I thought was gonna keep me in a really active, long, healthy life, that was my belief. In the midst of my career, I had a masters in physiology and anatomy. I had spent over a decade learning every in and out of fitness to wellness, Pilates, Yoga, everything I had really understood so many of the modalities. And one day, I woke up and the bottom of my foot hurt me, and I thought, must have stepped on a piece of glass.

So, I ignored it for a couple days and I just remember it getting worse and worse and worse, and I'm sure that these things happen to a lot of us. I really was gonna disillusioned because I had injured myself many times before as an athlete, but like all things, you have an identifiable source. I didn't really have an identifiable source and it weird me out of this idea of fitness and when I started searching for a solution and I asked all of the people and fitness, have you ever heard of waking up and having pain out of nowhere? And what I revealed was a dirty little secret of fitness, is that everybody is injured, everybody seems to be managing some type of chronic ache or pain. In fact, 80% of orthopedic injuries are exercise-induced.

So, I think, I formed this belief that if you ate right and you exercised and you did all the right things that you would live this active, healthy life, and that just wasn't so. I think, I changed first my words. I said, well, I didn't get into fitness to get injured, so I think we need to add a word, is how do you lead an active, healthy, pain-free life? and it turns out that if eating right and exercising and doing all of those things aren't the recipe to get us out of pain or to keep us active without pain. What's missing?

I veered out of the fitness industry and I started getting into a light touch therapeutic intervention, cranial, sacral therapy, visceral manipulation, and light touch intervention. And I stumbled across an emerging field of fascial research. And the International Fascia Research Congress was birthed in 2007. 2005, I became a founding member of the Fascia Research Society and the whole objective of the Fascia Congress was to bring clinicians and scientists together to start to understand what is it about our bodies that will lead us to a more fruitful, healthy life. One of the biggest quotes that came out was from one of the researchers saying that, "There's something clinicians know about fascia "that we don't, and we have to learn what that is, "and we have to work together." That was really a powerful moment for me to hear that researchers were coming together to share their work because researchers do not share their work with each other.

They all wanna be the ones to get their work published. They're not into doing things like that. That was an amazing opportunity for me to really watch what it was to bring clinicians and researchers together. And over the past decade we have learned so much about the nervous system and connective tissue because of these researchers and one of the things that changed is just the technology. We have these microscopic ways to view fascia that we never did before, and they're using confocal lasers and atomic force lasers to this atomic force microscopy to look at the very finite aspects of not our cells but what's going on outside of the cell.

So, we've spent hundreds and hundreds of years looking at the cell itself as being the real constructs of life. But what's going on outside of the cells is actually very important to cell health. When we say health, I think that you know, when we define what is healthy, like, what would you define as being healthy? Gosh, on the spot. I would say feeling life.

I'm on the top of a mountain perspective. Just healthy is vigor, vitality. That, I think that's right, is vitality, right? When we think of healthy, we think vibrant, resilience, right? Isn't that what all of us would think and I think that is so progressive to say that because when we look at what is healthy, is it really how muscular you are or your BMI.

I mean, in the fitness industry, fitness is really founded upon the bodybuilding mentality and even though all of these hybrid programs have come about, the concepts of fitness have really not changed very much. I'm sure you guys would probably all agree with that as well. Is athleticism saying how healthy you are, your muscle to fat ratio, is aging, you know, depending upon your age. Is a younger person more healthy than an older adult? and I think that, even what you're saying is, I think, we need to almost redefine what is healthy.

If healthy is vibrancy and vitality, then let's redefine health and what I would say health is is a healthy body, is one where all systems effortlessly connect, support, and maintain stability and balance. And when I say stability, I'm not just talking about your upright posture. I really mean stability on all levels, structural, emotional, psychological, chemical, neurological, hormonal, cellular, all components of stability. If what you wanna do is lead a healthy life, I think, learning a little bit about all aspects of stability is what's really missing in fitness to wellness today. When you define instability, instability is simply saying a loss of the functional integrity of a system which provides stability.

Here comes another question is, what systems of our body provides stability? There's this belief that the muscles and bones are what, provides stability, but in fact, what saps our stability is an entirely different system that is outside of our muscles and bones, and that's our connective tissue. The connective tissue although, 100% of the time, if you have pain or you're feeling not great, your brain is what's producing your sense of that ache or pain. But I will say, if you have pain in your body, you have an issue in your connective tissue and in the land of MELT, we call that issue when are connective tissue stuck stress. We have a lot of stuck stress living in our body.

Even if you don't have pain, we've all experienced what I call stuck stress. We've all experienced a pre-pain signal. And the problem with pre-pain signals, knowing that there is an issue in this connective tissue of ours, is that the feelings that we have are so common, we just think they're normal. Let's point out a couple of pre-pain signals. Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt stiff as a dried out sponge left out overnight in your kitchen sink, or you sit for long periods of time and you feel like you've aged about 20 years just from sitting, your joints don't work as well.

You get up, you're achy, you're stiff. I'm sure we've all experienced these sort of things. We don't really even call that pain, right? We just, you know, it's normal. The problem with the pre-pain signals is that when you get up in you move around, it naturally goes away, and that's why movement is so important to our connective tissue.

But if you think of connective tissue like a river, daily living is causing sediment to accumulate in your river's flow and it's not stopping the fluid state of the connective tissue from moving, but it is diverting it. and if you allow that accumulation to build, you're gonna start to get symptoms that seem a little bit more noticeable. Like, all of a sudden, one or more joints are starting to bother you, you're feeling like your neck or your low back you're always tight or you're always adjusting yourself in your chair to get comfortable, you have poor balance, you're feeling like your posture is declining, you're complaining about inflexibility, your feet or your hands are always inflamed, or you constantly talking about the fact that you feel bloated, you have prolonged muscle soreness. Suddenly, you're exercising and it seems to take not two or three days, but four, five, six days for you to actually feel the ache dissipate. And then, of course, if you're feeling all of those things, you probably are more prone to stress injuries.

Your joints are bothering you and you're feeling strange near your joints. If you're like most people and you get those symptoms and you popping Advil or you ignore it, now, you're causing a bigger problem because of most people don't realize is that in our body are these sensory nerves that the nervous system is relying upon to get good information from the body and where the sensory nerves are really accumulated in body are near our joints. If our joints are all full of stuck stress, the nervous system is not able to manage and adjust where our joints are. That causes some changes in the nervous system that seemed completely unrelated to connective tissue issues. So, if you allow that accumulative stress to really build, all the sudden, you're finding that you having trouble digesting food, you're constantly in a state of ache or pain.

You're feeling exhausted in the middle of the day. You feel like you have to have caffeine around 2:30 in the afternoon. But at night, for as exhausted as you feel in the day, you try to fall asleep and you don't fall sleep easily. You're getting up in the middle of the night, not once, maybe twice or two times, three times. Is it sounding familiar to anybody out there?

If you're already feeling these things, I would say this is really a bigger problem because the nervous system, once you have all of these problems, the issues that you'll have are going to even accelerate further. You're gonna not only have inflammation, you'll have anxiety, you'll have depression. Again, digestive problems, constipation, sleep issues, digestive issues. All of these things are things that people have all of the time and we still get around, don't we? You can have all of these things and we still seem to function, but here's the thing, you can't efficiently function if you're inefficiently stable, right?

One of my things I would say is that you can't really be efficiently mobile if you're in efficiently stable. You can move around, right, we move around but what we don't realize is that most of the time, we're compensating to just get through our normal day-to-day. And the thing is, if you're like most people and you let this continue, not only do you increase your chances for pain becoming chronic, you actually accelerate your aging process. If you wanna know how to improve stability, diet and exercise are not where it's at. It's not where Pilates is, it's not where Yoga is.

Stability is something functioning outside of our muscle system, outside of sensorimotor control. So, if you wanna know a little bit about the real components of stability, you need to know about three things. The first is your connective tissue, fascia, wanna know a little bit about the whole system. We'd wanna know a little bit about the sensory nervous system and how the sensory nervous system operates, and we also would wanna know about our autonomic nervous system and how we utilize and maintain chemical and hormonal balances, and together, these three components of our body are called the neurofascial system and that's what the MELT method is here to help us both learn about and also treat directly so that we don't have to deal with this accumulated stress and sap our energy from day to day. Let's start with the basics, is what is connective tissue?

First of all, connective tissue is the most abundant material in the entire body. Under our skin, connective tissue or fascia looks like flexible scaffolding. It's primarily made up of collagen, elastin, and fluids. Like, water and something called hyaluronic acid or hyaluronan, and a lot of ground substances, proteoglycans, glycosaminoglycans, all these fabulous words that basically mean a gel-like substance under our skin. And connective tissue is the primary system that stabilizes everything, the familiar things, like, your muscles and your bones, but it's also there to help stabilize every blood cell, every nerve and every organ in our body.

In fact, everything under our skin is relying on connective tissue so that those other systems can function efficiently. What science is just starting to realize is, again, daily living is causing an issue in the connective tissue and how it functions and operates. The thing about connective tissue in general, as I start using that word, what I want everybody to know is that there is a lot of changing terminology. Since 2007, the scientific committee has not come up with an absolutely hard cased word for fascia or connective tissues, so you'll see different things, like connective tissue or fasciae or fascia, deep fascia, superficial fascia. There's all sorts of ways we can describe this.

The loose areolar connective tissue, the extracellular matrix, and most recently, the interstitium, which is been some of the most progressive learning in science that we have in connective tissue today. But for fascia, just really it depends upon who the teacher is teaching you, but when I use the word connective tissue, I'm talking about fascia. Let's define fascia. In more recent times, fascia has a vast definition. It's considered all of the collagenous soft tissue in the body including the cells that create and maintain the intricate microscopic network we define as the extracellular matrix.

Now, the extracellular matrix and fascia are not really the same thing, although, they are the same types of components. But when we were talking about the extracellular matrix as the most microscopic elements of fascia outside of our cells, so it's not including the cells of fascia called fibroblasts or any other cell for that matter, but it is the fibrous elements of connective tissue. And the best way to really think of what's the difference between fascia and the extracellular matrix is if you can't cut it with a blade and you can't pull it apart, then you're in the microscopic elements and that's the extracellular matrix. But if I can cut it with a blade, I can dissect it, I'm in the land of fascia. Basically, if I take the extracellular matrix plus cells, that equals fascia, okay?

So, fascia, in and of itself, because of collagen, it can actually be considered a neuro-electro-chemical superconducting transportation network. That's a mouthful, try to say that 10 times and what's really intriguing about connective tissue is it's that embedded in fascia are sensory nerves, and there's billions of sensory nerves living in fascia far more than there are in muscles or anywhere else in our body. The only place that has more sensory nerves is your gut, but even your gut is reliant on fascia to function efficiently. When we talk about connective tissue, one of the really important components is understanding why do we call connective tissue a stability system? Why is it a stability system?

And most of the time, when we think about our posture and our function, we're thinking about biomechanical behavior. We're always exercising our muscles, pushing, pressing, all of these things to tone your muscles but it turns out the human body is not a biomechanical system. It's actually a biotensegrity system. And there's another word you might not know about. The difference between biomechanics and biotensegrity, if we're gonna ask why is fascia a system of stability, a stability system of the body, it is because of this tensional integrity that fascia creates.

First, tensegrity is a made-up word between tension and integrity, tensional integrity equals tensegrity. This is a structural relationship principle and it's basically as a matter of physics. It's about the synergy between coexisting pairs of fundamental physical laws which will be things like push-pull or tension and compression. Whereas a biomechanical structure or general architecture, when you think of the building, what you have are compression pieces or compression partners that are stacked one atop the other, and it's the compression elements of most buildings that keep it stable. Well, the human body is not made of a continuous compression parts, it's actually got a continuous tensional network with discontinuous compression pieces.

What biotensegrity defines is the discontinuous compression components in a continuous tensional network. What biotensegrity has is this pre-stressed tensional components that use minimal energy. They're stable in all directions and they disperse force throughout entire network to manage compression efficiently. Biotensegrity integrates anatomy from molecular to the cellular and all the way down to the structural elements of the human body. So, if we break that down a little bit with the tissue dynamics from macroscopic to microscopic as you magnify every element of fascia, no matter how far down you look, you're gonna find this particular structures that are called polyhydric shapes.

In the human body, they're called microvacuoles. In these types of shapes and with tensegrity, there's something called self-assembly. In all living matter, self-assembly exists. Whether you looking at the spines of a leaf or you look at a tortoise shell, you look at soap bubbles or pumice, sponge, you can open an orange, all of these components, you'll see this a little microscopic shapes and sure enough, even on your skin, when your skin is dry, you see those triangular, quadrangular shapes. What's causing that is the connective tissue and the collagen beneath and that is really what exists in all living matter are these a polyhydric shapes, this tensioned network that is absolutely discontinuous.

Connective tissue truly is a three-dimensional fluid-based matrix and collagen because it can morph and adapt as we move is actually pretensing, it's allowing for our bones to float in this wonderful matrix that we call our bodies. From microscopic, the cells, if you go all the way down the most microscopic components, our cells are reactive and respond to the environment that they live in and cells need a very solid mechanical environment to function and that's what connective tissue does. That's what the extracellular matrix does is it gives it a stable environment. If we have adaptations in the extracellular matrix, that can really lead to problems with our cell life and the lifespan of cells overall, which is an intriguing thing is that we think that the cell itself, it's forming our bodies but the cell's reliant upon what's going on outside of the cell so that the cell functions efficiently. But on a macroscopic level, our skeleton, our bones are floating in the fascial network, so that no joints get too close together that we don't have bones that hit at each other when we move and what connective tissue provides is shock absorption.

This tensional integrity to manage our structure no matter what move we make. The bone position is really managed by the tensional network. It's not your muscles that stabilize your bones. Your muscles are very reliant on fascia as well. If our muscles themselves are out of balance, I dare to say that there is something that preceded muscle instability and muscle imbalance and that's fascial instability and fascial dysfunction.

That's why it's so important. Connective tissue, in general, is a mechanical force manager. It's basically managing all of our movements and almost by memory, it's a sustaining our postures, our movements and our habits that we do because that's what we do, is we practice and repeat movement all of the time. So, fascia almost knows how we want to move and if whatever you do the most in a day is what your fascia is gonna be used to managing. If you sit for eight hours a day in that forward head carriage with your head down and typing away, when you stand up, you sometimes still look like you're sitting down, right?

Your whole body is still in that posture and the problem with that is that we get up to you know run at the end of a day, and is our connective tissue really ready to have that type of impact? And I would say, no, which is why so many people get injured and have stress injuries is that they're not tapping into the connective tissue before they do activity. And again, that's really where the MELT method comes in to help us stabilize our body. The thing that we know about connective tissue is it's a very reactive system and what it reacts to the most is tension and compression. What we know, is if you compress local regions of your body or you cause tension to connective tissue to your body, in local regions, in very specific ways, and let it go, you get a fill effect, like working fluid into a sponge and squeezing it out, waiting for a second, and then opening it up so that it takes new fluid in.

Fascia especially in the superficial layers basically does that same thing. What we also know, is if we compress or pull on connective tissue for long periods of time, that's the very thing that causes the fascial dysfunction that I call fascial dehydration, that you lose the stiffness to elastic properties of the tissue. And once that happens, you now get a cascade of problems. The fluid absorption that we rely on in ourselves, the transportation of nutrients, excretion, going to the bathroom, you know, it slows down, all the sudden you're constipated. You always feel thirsty, always feel hungry, things like that start to happen.

The deformation in connective tissue, it actually it decreases your cell's integrity. The neurological transmission to sensorimotor control now declines, and as sensorimotor control declines, you're just off to the races for joint problems. Again, it's the stiffness to elastic properties that we wanna look at. What maybe is confusing or something that we don't know enough about is what exactly is stiffness and elasticity in the land of connective tissue. So, stiffness is a term to say fascia's resistance to stress.

When you apply stress to connective tissue, the stiffness of fascia is gonna resist the uptake of stress so that we don't damage things underneath. Elasticity, you think of the word elastic and you think, stretch. And I'm saying, no, it's actually called elastic recoil. Fascia, not only has the the ability to resist stress when force is applied, but it's actually there to manage and move and morph and adapt and then quickly return to its ideal shape. The quickness, the speed that the tissue can return to its ideal shape is what's called elasticity.

The stiffness to elastic properties is what creates the tone of fascia, the fine balance between those two properties is what allows fascia to function. Here's the interesting thing is it doesn't matter if you're hypermobile or you feel a stiff as a board and you can't bend over to pick up something off the floor because you're so tight, you can't touch your toes with your fingers, either way, you have a stiffness to elastic property imbalance. You have a lack of tone of your fascial tissue. It doesn't matter which side you're on. The nice thing about MELT is that it brings you back to the midline, it brings you back.

It doesn't matter which side of the spectrum you're on. MELT can offer some benefits to either side. So, on top of fascia, there's my little introduction to fascia. Hopefully, now, maybe, I've piqued your curiosity of that. So, what about the nervous system, the sensory nervous system?

So, there's really this new frontier in communication where understanding how neurological communication is actually happening, not just through our nervous system which happens at about 150 miles an hour, but through the fascia, information is passing at almost 750 miles per hour. So, nerve transmission is also relying upon fascia to function efficiently. Neurological compensation adaptability and the path of least resistance is something that the nervous system is always trying to find. So, if you have this stuck stress living in your body, you're not gonna not move your body, it's just gonna figure out a way around the detours to get you to move as efficiently as humanly possible. The neural communication and sensory control that we rely upon is really reliant on the fascial network, and to function efficiently, again, nerve neurological information passing through a stiff system doesn't pass through quite so quickly.

Then, finally the functional role of the sensory receptors found in the fascia really help us to better understand the components necessary for accurate movement as well as the pain cycle. There's a lot of neurological receptors in the body. In fact, we have many kinds of receptors living in our body, but the four that probably are important for us right now are proprioceptors, mechanoreceptors, interoceptors, and nociceptors. So, proprioceptors help our brain figure out where are joints are in relationship to gravity and our center, our pelvis especially in an upright posture. Mechanoreceptors are very receptive to mechanical force.

If we stretch, if we move, mechanoreceptors are the ones that react to what we're doing, and then send information back to the brain so that the brain can process it and get us to move appropriately. Interoceptors, those are really about how we sense ourselves, but it's also, like, when you feel hungry, or you get butterflies in your stomach, those are your interoceptors that are alerting that you need to eat. They also have a lot to do with our organs. And then, nociceptors are receptors that alert the brain if there's tissue damage and notify the brain that something's happened in the body, but nociceptors are not pain receptors. You can have nociception and feel no pain, as much as you can have pain and not have nociception.

A good example of that, when you don't feel pain, or nociceptors wouldn't be activated, we're out here at the ocean, I hear about somebody get their arm bitten off by a shark. They swim themselves to shore, get themselves in their car and drive themselves to the hospital and then they bleed out. How is that? And they never the feel the pain. If their arm has been bitten off, they don't scream, they just go.

So, if your brain gets a message from the body, something's wrong, and sending a message of pain is gonna save you, then you're gonna feel pain, but if it's going to disrupt your ability to get out alive, you will feel no pain. And that's really an amazing thing about our sensory receptors and why it's so important that we keep connective tissue hydrated because it turns out, the one area of our body where there are billions of sensory nerve endings are right under our skin in something called, the superficial fascia. And the superficial fascia, again, the nomenclature, that layer of adipose that a lot of people wanna call adipose tissue is not just fat tissue. In fact, Gil Hedley and his most recent images shows us this fatty layer and then massages the fat out of this layer of tissue right under our skin, and we now reveal something that almost looks just like a sponge. If you eliminate all of the fat from the superficial fascia, for certain, that layer is not just the adipose layer.

That is your superficial fascia layer and it is nerved ends. You have billions of sensory nerves. Don't suck that safarI your body because you're sucking your intuition and your sense of yourself right out your body with it. That's no good to do that to your system. The other system that we'd wanna know about also besides the sensory system is the autonomic nervous system.

And the autonomic nervous system is a component of our nervous system underneath our peripheral nervous system. So, again, it's also working with the sensory system but the autonomic nervous system is the monitor for three regulators, the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric nervous systems. I'd like the call those the stress regulator, the repair regulator, and your gut regulator. What we know about these regulators is how often we are functioning inefficiently in the regulator. So, stress, what is stress?

Stress is all incoming information from a waking state all the way until we fall asleep. And unfortunately in today's day and age, we are just inundated with stress. We've stressed ourselves out to death. We're just freaking ourselves out, driving our cars, the news, everything, politics, everything is stressful today. Your kids are stressful, your parents are stressful, your husbands, wives are stressful. everything is stress.

The problem is that we get so much stress in our days, in every waking state, the only time where the repair regulator is really dominant is when we sleep and what's the problem with sleep is that most of us are not getting a restful night's sleep from day to day. So, you're actually waking up the next day with a backlog of stuck stressed, and that's a bigger problem because the enteric nervous system, that got regulator, where we produce neurotransmitters that the brain is relying upon, like serotonin and dopamine for you to fall asleep also becomes low in its tone. And now, you're really having more and more systemic problems. You're having trouble digesting food, you're having all of these other issues. Your body just is not performing well.

You're feeling like you have a lot of hormonal imbalances and things of that nature. Connective tissue is also helping us with that as well. I give you a lot of science but the question is what can we do to help our nervous system function more efficiently and to get the autonomic nervous system back on track, because I get it, we all wanna feel like we are in control of ourselves, right? I wanna feel like I have this much control of my body as I can but 98% of what goes on in our bodies is involuntary. The autonomic nervous system is really the system that stabilizes us, that keeps us functioning well on top of our connective tissue.

So, these two are like a power couple working together to keep us stable. And what the MELT method is here to do is to help us clear out that accumulated stress and restore neurological stability. I've been a manual therapist now for almost 25 years and I've worked on over 10,000 people in a private practice, and what was interesting to me about five, six years ago, I started looking at all my history and consent forms, and what I found compelling was that, out of the, let's say, the 10,000, over 8,000 people checked off back pain as being a primary problem for their bodies. And I started palpating people's lumbar spines and I just kept noticing that one side of their tissue was thicker than the other side. And I proposed that the problem with that was that the sensory nervous system was not communicating well-enough with was called the thoracolumbar fascia, the stabilizers of our spine.

So, I proposed a research study and I finally got Tom Findley in New Jersey Institute of Technology to do a research paper on MELT and what I proposed was that, there was an altercation in the sliding surfaces under the thoracolumbar fascia that was altering the communication of the muscles that stabilize the lumbar spine, the actual activation of the pelvic floor. That densification was really the problem, and I proposed that I could eliminate the thickening of the thick side through MELT. And Tom said, "Let's go ahead and get your research study." So we went out there we did it and we proposed that in four weeks, the MELT low back pain protocol could improve the thoracolumbar fascial balance from left to right and reduce pain symptoms and improve the flexibility and reduce thickness of the thoracolumbar fascia, and that would improve function and decrease pain. What you're seeing here is what the basic protocol was. First, we started people with the soft hand and foot ball and the soft roller, and in the first week, for the first week, all they did was a softball foot treatment, and something called the rebalance sequence, and I'm actually gonna do that both of those with you guys in our session where that's exactly what we're gonna do because if you wanna help your nervous system function more efficiently, those are the first two things.

In the second week, we started doing compression. We started doing upper body compression which will also do today and we also did a lower body compression sequence, never touching a low back, working on the inner thigh, the back to the thigh, the calves, and then after they had those two weeks, they were now mixing and matching rebalance, foot treatment, upper body, lower body, but they didn't have to do it every day. Each sequence takes about 10 minutes, and once they understood how to do compression sequences, then we added the lower body length and the low back release sequences. So, only in the final week did they have the roller anywhere close to their low back, but we never touch the low back. It's only on the pelvis and you can see Pam here in the image, she is doing the bent knee press, and hip to heel press.

And those were just two of a number of lengthening techniques from MELT. And then, we did something called the tuck and tilt challenge and the low back decompress, but that was in the last week. So, they all returned after doing all of these and you can see in the ultrasound images here on the no low back pain, you can sort of see that there is a sliding and gliding between the surface layers. You see all of that movement that happens in that a darker area but beneath where the muscles are, that you can see that the muscles are contracting. That white line up above is that fascial layer where a thoracolumbar fascia is.

On a person with low back pain, you can see that the tissue is just not moving. The muscles can't slide and glide against that tissue and what we saw in the ultrasound. So, in the low back pain research study, after four weeks, we had not a huge group, we had 17 women and eight men who are in the MELT group and another 18 women and four men in the control group, and by the end of the four weeks, we had a significant decrease in the subcutaneous and low back zones of thickness. So, the thoracolumbar fascia decreased in its thickening. We had a significant increase in the stress relaxation time.

Flexibility increased for these people. They felt like they were moving easier, they were breathing better, they were sleeping more soundly and they just felt like they had a little bit more resilience in their bodies. There was a decreasing trend in the biomechanical properties of the paraspinal tissue, the low back tissue, but we didn't have enough people in the research to actually make that a significant finding. But if we had more like 50 people, that would have been there is well. We also had, of course, a significant decrease in pain.

and, of course, that increase in flexibility. But here was a really compelling thing was when the research came back, the side of the thoracolumbar fascia that started out thicker decreased more than the side that was less thick to begin with. That was unheard of. What I would propose is that fascia is in fact an intelligent system and as the muscles started to contract more appropriately, there was no need for that stiffening to be there, and so the body started to function more efficiently, and I think that's really what's so compelling about MELT in hands-off body work is that you're taking it into your own hands and you're able to apply this hands-on treatment that I was doing with my clients in this hands-off way using the MELT method. So, really what MELT does is that it's here to help restore the supportive qualities of the connective tissue system to improve neurological regulation and efficiency.

What's unique about MELT is the language, and there's so much rich science that's embedded into the methodology but the language itself, what I've, you know, and even I've given you guys, a lot of science, I mean, just in a short period of time, talking about the sensory nervous system and fascia and tensegrity, but being able to simplify, and that's the beauty of MELT, this is a simplified language that can be understood by anyone, and it's a nice, easy way to get people back into their bodies so that they don't have to wait for pain to let somebody know that something's not right with them, right? There's an assessment methodology in MELT and that's really 80% of pain is that we're just unaware of what's going on. We don't we don't know how to sense stuck stress in our bodies. We wait for pain to let us know that we need to intervene in something. MELT diverts the attention away from pain and back in the stuck stress so that we can eliminate the cause.

And the nice thing about MELT is you can do it anywhere. It's very teachable, a nice step-by-step process, and for me, I thought what was really great when I started sharing this with my clients was it's very empowering. It gets them to actively partake in their healing process and that way, I didn't have to be their mother and they always had to come back to me for help. They could take it live on their own. When I was trying to explain all of the science to my clients, nobody cared.

When I first started teaching MELT, I would bring in strips of cow fascia. I wanted everybody to touch the stuff and explain what it was and nobody would ever like, "I don't even know where you got that", I was like, I got it at the butcher's, come on. This is what's under your skin, they're like, "I don't wanna touch that." What I realized is that I had to break it down. What I started to develop is what I call the MELT Living Body Model and there's five elements of the Living Body Model. The first is the autopilot.

It gets us around having to explain the neurofascial system or talk about fibroblasts or glycosaminoglycans or any of these fancy words. The autopilot is essentially the parts of your body that are trying to support, protect, and stabilize you involuntarily and that's your neurofascial system. So, the autopilot is our layman's way of saying that. The second is body sense. Instead of talking about proprioceptors, enteroreceptors, exteroreceptors, nociceptors, proprioceptors, we don't have to talk about receptors at all, we just call it body sense.

What body sense is the internal sense of ourselves. We can learn to use body sense to sense where stuck stress is living on our body and our auto pilot uses body sense to identify where our joints are in relationship to gravity and our center so that we function efficiently, and as we learn how to use body sense, our autopilot's ability to utilize body sense heightens as well. The third model is tensional energy, the third element of the Living Body Model, tensional energy. Instead of talking about fluid flow, like, what is it about fluid flow? So, fascia is a fluid system and which driving the fluid flow through fascia is our lymphatic system, and that's one of the newest things in research is understanding that these pre-lymphatic channels, these conduits or that interstitium are these pumps that are driving the fluid from our fascia into the lymph and eliminating the waste from our body.

So, instead of trying to explain the fluid flow and starting to talk about the interstitium or your lymphatic system which I will share a little bit about that when we do the class together, but tensional energy is directing the fluid flow of the connective tissue, and much like putting your hand in a tub of water and spinning water in one direction when you take your hand out of the tub, what happens to the water? Keeps moving, right? So, that movement is what call the piezoelectric force, a charge in and in our bodies, the compression and releasing is gonna create discharge in the tissue and we can actually create another scientific term called mechanotransduction, a cellular exchange from mechanical pressure. You can take mechanical force and turn it into a cellular exchange. To get around all of these concepts, we just call it tensional energy.

We're improving the fluid state of our connective tissue. We also have the masses and spaces. We don't talk about anatomy in MELT because if you want to get through to the general public, you cannot use anatomical terms. As much as it makes you feel really good and at one with yourself as a practitioner 'cause you're very smart, we actually alienate our clients when we start talking to high-level in science to them or are anatomically to them. And I always talk about my mom, one day I said to my mom, hey mom, she was talking about her knee was bothering her and I said, mom do you know where your hamstring is?

and she says, "I think it's in the kitchen, "next to the spatulas in the top drawer," and I said, what do you think a hamstring is? She goes, "Isn't it a string that you tie a ham with? I was like, different hamstring. Okay, close though. For the general population, I think, as much as we practitioners all are very in the know of muscles and bone anatomy, talking that way to clients is unhelpful.

You guys are gonna hear me talk about the masses and spaces of your body. Essentially, the masses are your bones and the spaces are your joints. and by using body sense, we can evaluate the alignment of our masses and spaces. And sense where stuck stress is living on our body and also value the changes that MELT can make which is, I think, what's so great about it. Then finally, the neurocore.

The neurocore is a massive element that is basically the culmination of 50 different types of reflexes and neurological mechanisms that provide stability. How does our autopilot stabilize support and protect our gut, keep our spine stable, and keep good accuracy of our pelvic floor is through the neurocore. Now, for those of you who are heavy into Pilates, I know, you guys, all know what the core is and the core, we can define through muscles, the transversus abdominis, the multifidus, the pelvic floor, and the diaphragm, but I would wonder if I asked you, how does it work, if you could really answer the question. The reason we can't really answer the question through the anatomy of muscle is because it's not a muscle system. It's a dual neurofascial stabilizing system that functions on neurological mechanisms.

It is a tonic system, meaning that it's always active and you can plank, pike, twist or hundred yourself to death and not enhance the neurological mechanisms of your neurocore. So, I'm gonna teach you how to actually activate the neurological core reflex and help you to re-establish something called the rooting mechanism, the neurological stabilization mechanisms from your feet. When we treat our feet, we'll hit the rooting mechanisms and when we work with the rebalance sequence, we'll activate the core reflex and what's brilliant about adding just these two tiny sequences to any MELT practice, you know, again, giving your clients an insurance policy to back them up, to ensure that the deepest aspects of their torso that truly stabilize the spine activate before you add exercise to their bodies, so that you really get what you want out of it. This has been the beauty of adding MELT to Pilates and creating a MELTed Pilates curriculum is to prepare our bodies for the rigorous work especially with the mat or the reformer so that we just get more out of our protocols, we get a better C-curve of the spine, we get better pelvic stabilization, we get better core activation. You just get more out of your practice by adding a little bit of MELT.

So, applying the Living Body Model, we call that the four R's of MELT, reconnect, rebalance, rehydrate, and release. What you guys will learn, are some reconnect techniques. These are assessment techniques so that you can both value the changes that MELT can make an immediate term, but when you assess, treat your body, and re-assess, that's really the beauty of hands-off body work, 'cause learning to treat yourself like a body worker. If you told me I had shoulder pain, last thing I would do is say, lie down on my table and just start working away at your shoulder. I would explore your body, try to figure out what was causing the problems, treat it, and then see if I was on the right track.

So, you're gonna learn how to reconnect to your body, go into your body to sense what you feel, treat it, and then, re-assess to see if you can make the changes. By reconnecting, you're also helping your autopilot reconnect to your center of gravity, and it's actually what helps the nervous system reset to a better, more balanced place. No matter how good you get at MELTing, you always wanna do assessments and then re-assess when you're done. So, that's really a key component of it. Rebalancing I'm gonna teach you guys how to rebalance your neurocore.

We're gonna do the rebalance sequence straight up from the MELT method book and we'll also do a athletic performance foot treatment, we'll do the MELT performance foot treatment using the large soft and the large firm balls to also activate that exchange of the chain of the body, so let's also a great one. And then, we'll also work on re-hydrating. Now, I know, a lot of you guys have used foam rollers. Remember, foam rollers have been around for a long time, but instead of ironing ourselves like a shirt and when we find a lumpy area, digging it out, like we'll win an award for inflicting pain in our bodies. It's not how are gonna treat it.

Instead, I'm gonna teach you guys how to apply gentle positive compression to give the superficial fascia layers time to adapt to the compression so that the sensory nervous system has time to adapt to that pressure, so that it doesn't start sending wrong messages to our brain to give the nervous system time to adapt. You'll learn how to do gliding, shearing, and rinsing techniques which are basic compression techniques. Gliding a preparatory techniques away for you guys to investigate the tissue for areas of stiffening, what would I call barriers and you guys will learn to explore your body with the gliding techniques. Shearing is a way to stimulate the fascial cells and to create some induction of neuroelectrochemical changes in connective tissue in the collagen system to create more fluid flow from fascia to lymph. You'll also learn lengthening techniques which are different than stretching, right?

When we stretch, we stretch muscles. But fascia length is a little bit of a different feeling, so even if you guys wanna try this for a second, like, if you were to take your hand and pull your wrist back, can you feel that pull in your forearm? So, that some muscle stretch that you're feeling. But if I ask you to take your arm nice and long without hyperextending your elbow and then tip your head away from it and reach your arm, and if you can feel if you really open up your hand a longer, fuzzier pull down your arm, can you get a sense of that? So, that is fascia, that's actually causing tensional pull.

You're actually not stretching a muscle in its end range, you're actually trying to create a long tensional pull from my cheek all the way down to my fingers. So, if I really fish that out, I can feel when I move my wrist around, I can feel the pull all the way up into my neck. If I really think about where I wanna feel that. The fascia is what allows you to really create that long tensional sensation of pull. So, when we do a lengthening technique, I don't want you guys to think about stretching muscle or really feeling an intense pull, see if you can create a long continuous tense of tension throughout the region of your body when we do those techniques.

And then, the final R of MELT is called release, and we're not going to release your myofascia, my friends, we are going to release our unnecessary compression in our joints. I'm gonna teach you guys how to decompress your own neck and low back, and also mobilize the joints of your feet to try to create more resilience and more shock absorbency to the fascial system in an upright posture. In the new MELT performance book, we'll also share a neurological re-integration and re-patterning. We won't do any of that today, but neurological re-integration through sensorimotor control, sensorimotor awareness, also very high-level concepts are usually done with a therapist. I'm gonna share those with the general population as well.

For better or for worse, we're gonna see if people understand how to do that but, I think, people gravitated toward the connective tissue so, I think, the nervous system is the next thing. So, in our sessions, I'm gonna be doing the MELT performance foot treatment with you guys. We're gonna do that specific sequence, and we'll also do some of the MELTing and Holly Altman is also gonna be doing the MELTed Pilates, both work that we do on the mat with the half roller and a full roller. We'll also do some stuff on the apparatus. All great things to see how, not only MELT place as a method in and of itself but how you can quickly apply the MELT method to Pilates and begin to use the soft rollers and the techniques of MELT right in your own practice.

So, I hope you guys enjoy all of that and I hope that this has been educational for you. Thanks.

Comments

What a gift you have given Pilates Anytime Sue. Thank you!
3 people like this.
So appreciative of PA bringing top people in the fasciae field to us. This is such important work to use in our Pilates practice and teaching. Can’t wait to watch and learn from the upcoming class using MELT.
1 person likes this.
Really interesting! Anxious to see the class.
2 people like this.
Looking forward to the classes. I have used both the melt method and Tune Up yoga balls with much success in helping with RA stiffness. Looking forward to learning more.
Jan
2 people like this.
Looking forward to a class
She clearly knows her stuff; I look forward to the class...will it be posted soon?
2 people like this.
Fantastic information! Can't wait till the class is posted.
Liz
2 people like this.
More from Sue Hitzmann please!
2 people like this.
THANK YOU! Ive been wanting to learn more about this for a very long time. Valuable information
2 people like this.
This is absolutely phenomenal. I look forward to watching the classes once they are posted too.
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