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Why massage techniques to remove adhesions are all rubbish

Posted Jun 28 2012 11:05pm
Deep tissue massage therapy ( the Wurm  technique) to break soft tissue adhesions has been aggressively marketed under different names ( for example , clear passage therapy ). They claim  that as a result of applying deep pressure through the abdominal wall, it’s possible for the therapist to selectively remove the patient's adhesions , thus allowing  the pelvic organs to start functioning normally – and that this will reduce pain and restore fertility.

This is rubbish. And to  understand why, let’s look at some basic anatomy and physiology , as to why this can't possibly work. Adhesions are scar tissue , and are made of soft fibrous bands. Because of an insult to the tissues (for example , an infection), the walls of the fallopian tubes get stuck to adjoining structures ( such as bowel) Adhesions are made of soft tissue - which is exactly the same as tissue the fallopian tubes and bowels are made of . If someone tries to apply deep massage through the abdominal wall in order to remove these adhesions , simple common sense will tell you that there is no way that anyone could do it so selectively. It’s not possible to guide the massage in such a way that it would tear only the scar tissue, and not affect the normal tissue. ( Surgeons can do this, but only under vision, using a laser !)

If deep tissue massage was really effective in breaking and thus removing the adhesions, a lot of patients would end up with holes in their bowels ! Fortunately , the technique is completely ineffective , and no one can remove adhesions, no matter how deep the massage they apply.

Talk to any surgeon you know as to how he removes adhesions. In order to do so, he has to go through the abdominal wall, so he can see them. In the past, this was done by opening the belly; and today, this can be done by using a laparoscope. He then needs to use a laser or scissors to break the adhesions, in order to free the tissues and restore normal pelvic anatomy. This can be quite a challenging task , even for a skilled surgeon – and often takes a lot of time, skill and experience to do so safely ( without tearing the bowel), even though he is doing it under vision.

The trouble is that most people are so reluctant to undergo surgery today , that they are quite happy to clutch at straws which offer nonsurgical alternatives. Unfortunately , a lot of these techniques prey on the patient’s ignorance . Simply because patients don't know any better, it’s very easy to take them for a ride. they are marketed very clever.  These are often  very expensive techniques ( someone has to pay for the slick marketing !) which are completely ineffective.

So, why do some patients believe they have improved as a result of this therapy ? Making an accurate diagnosis of adhesions is extremely difficult – and it’s not possible to do this on an x-ray or an ultrasound scan - you need to either open the abdomen or do a laparoscopy to make a reliable diagnosis, Now, since most of the patients do not have a visual proven diagnosis , it’s very convenient to label everyone with chronic pelvic pain as having adhesions – and blaming the adhesions for their pain, without ever
proving or disproving the diagnosis . Now, since pain is perceived in the brain , any intervention - sometimes , just a kind word ! - can help to relieve this pain. This is why a lot of patients who believe ( or have been fooled into doing so) that they have pain because of adhesions, will improve , thanks to the therapy, not because the treatment itself works ! They feel better, not because their adhesions have melted, but simply because someone has been nice and kind to them , and actually laid their hands on them ! The placebo effect can be very powerful, and  this is something which patients need to understand !

What about those infertile couples who claim  they conceive after taking Clear Passage Therapy ? Usually, their correct diagnosis is unexplained infertility – and many patients with this diagnosis do get pregnant , even when nothing is done for them ! If it really were so simple to remove adhesions nonsurgically, most surgeons would be very happy to stop cutting up patients to open their abdomens,  and start doing this deep tissue massage themselves !

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