Going Beyond Relaxation to Heal with Neuromuscular Massage
May 26, 2016 06:26PM
Just as the field of medicine has specialties, so does the field of massage therapy. While most traditional massage therapists work in spa settings with a focus on relaxation and stress reduction, Fred Broadbent of Healthful Hands is skilled at restoring the body to optimal function following sportsrelated and other injuries. Broadbent opened his practice in 2009, yet his interest in healing began many years ago. “I was the football team manager in college,” he says, “and players would often come to me for relief from muscle injuries. I guess I’ve always had a natural talent and interest in this field.” Healing is part of Broadbent’s heritage. Not only was his Great grandmother a healer, but his ancestor Sir William Henry Broadbent was the late nineteenth century famed neurologist and cardiologist, as well as physician to the royal family.
Broadbent is a neuromuscular therapist (he likes the term structural therapist), and though he does not diagnose medical issues, he is properly trained to assess them. “I look for underlying and outlying causes that may or may not originate in the area of pain or dysfunction,” says Broadbent. Once assessed, he works on the body’s muscle tissue and fascia to correct the issue and restore function to the greatest degree possible.
Some of what he does is similar to deep tissue massage, where he skillfully manipulates trigger points - nodules of restricted muscle - within the muscle fiber to relieve pain. Broadbent notes that trigger points are typically not located at the point of pain, but usually originate elsewhere in the body. A trigger point in the back, for example, may produce pain in the neck or shoulder, or even be the source of chronic headaches.
He is particularly successful at treating neuromas, a benign growth of nerve tissue that causes pain. Most are Morton’s neuroma, a compression of the neuro sheath located between the third and fourth toes. Common in golfers, the condition is often tough to identify because it doesn’t show on standard imaging and can even be difficult to sense on palpation. Broadbent says that though some can resolve on their own, most don’t, and the neuro sheath can be badly scarred. He is skilled at both assessing the problem and palpating the area to bring relief, which he admits is not a cure, but can preclude the need for surgery, a last-resort procedure which requires surgically cutting the nerve. “I don’t provide healing, but the body is equipped to heal itself when provided the tools and conditions to do so,” says Broadbent. “And proper manipulation better allows the body to achieve homeostasis, offering relief and better quality of life.”
Although his practice focuses on athletes, he also sees many patients with rotator cuff and other neuromuscular issues. If, upon assessment, he suspects a tear, he will refer to a physician for treatment, though under certain conditions, he has been able to restore function without surgery. “Even if surgery is required, neuromuscular massage is able to significantly reduce recovery time, allowing the body to heal better and faster,” says Broadbent.
Working on muscle is only part of the equation, Broadbent says. Fascia dysfunction can also play a role in chronic pain and restriction of movement. “The body is basically one continuous muscle from head to toe, covered with an interwoven fibrous sheathing known as fascia,” he says, adding that the posterior and anterior fascial plane continue beyond the muscle to the cellular level. He says fascia dysfunction can also result from emotional injury, and that proper treatment can result in the release of both physical and emotional pain, which are often related.
He adds that it’s especially important for practitioners to have an extensive understanding of human anatomy because accurate assessments can require a bit of detective work. He remembers one client with an injury to the lower leg, and based on his extensive knowledge of human anatomy and the body’s defensive posturing he was able to recreate how the injury occurred. “When I guessed that the foot had pronated, causing the knee to bend inward and that the patient had turned in a certain way so as not to fall forward and instead had landed on the pelvic ridge, my patient was amazed that I had perfectly recreated the incident and asked how I knew what had happened without being told,” Broadbent recounts. “’Your body told on you,’ I answered.”
His commitment to his practice extends well above the requirements to maintain his licensure. Far exceeding the 24 hours of continuing education required for this licensing period, Broadbent has accumulated 42 thus far, including additional training in shoulder dysfunction, migraines, sciatica (piriformis impingement syndrome), and other issues related to the head, neck and cervical spine. He has patients willing to drive from 90 minutes away for treatment. Some have called him a “miracle worker,” he says, but Broadbent says it’s simply a matter of understanding physical anatomy and function, combined with a passion for this profession and for helping people to heal. That passion and expertise have resulted in an invitation to the Oakmont Country Club in Pittsburgh in June as part of the U.S. Open’s “Wellness Team.” Healthful Hands is also a sponsor of the Lehigh Valley Amateur Golf Tournament held at Green Pond Leap, and the net will appear. ~John Burroughs Country Club each September.
To those who may be suffering with injuries for which they have not yet found relief, Broadbent offers this advice: “Never take the word of one as law,” he says. “A good practitioner will assess, direct and give proper advice. Always consider other options and alternatives.”
Fred Broadbent of Healthful Hands Massage Therapy can be reached at 610-882-1100.