For over 5 years I have studied a remarkable system of hands-on techniques for treating all kinds of body parts and systems. When I first encountered the founder of this work and heard her describe the philosophy of her system of treatment, I knew this was what I had been looking for my entire professional career.
Since then, I have tried to explain this work to patients, doctors, friends and staff. Sharon Weiselfish-Giammatteo, the founder of Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT), has also spent countless hours explaining her work and trying to come up with a concise description.
Manual therapy is a classification of treatment rendered by the hands. Many different healing fields use hands to make people feel and function better. Physical therapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic, osteopathic, Chinese medicine, and a whole host of other bodywork systems use hands as a tool to improve health. IMT was developed with the philosophy that different “tools” are needed to treat different things in the body, not unlike a carpenter who uses a variety of tools for building a house. Different techniques work better for certain problems than others, but in combination they give a very complete result. The common denominator of all these techniques is to improve the potential for movement and function. This differs from other forms of medical treatment that get you to a functioning point, not necessarily maximizing your potential.
The major assumption taken with IMT work is the body has its own wisdom and strategies for keeping itself functioning with the least amount of danger and compromise. For example, after a flu shot, the muscles around the injection may spasm to keep the vaccine containing the flu virus from spreading too quickly throughout the body. This allows time for the body to build up the necessary defenses to fight the flu virus, keeping the body healthy and functioning. One therapist used a technique to treat the muscle spasm right after her flu shot and ended up creating muscle weakness in her arm lasting several weeks. In this case, the muscle spasm right over the injection site was a lesser evil than the broader weakness of her entire arm.
IMT uses the approach that the body is protecting vital structures and IMT doesn’t try to force change. Rather, it uses gentle forces (usually 5 grams of force, about the weight of a nickel on your finger pad) to encourage the body to make a change. It then offers support to the body with some unique techniques to help the body heal the primary breakdowns that signaled the protective modes in the first place.
For example, a patient of mine came in with very limited shoulder movement, which started the year before after a car accident. Upon closer inspection, he had very limited movement in his neck as well. Previous stretching and strengthening exercises did not resolve his situation. It turned out he still had evidence of blood vessel and bone trauma in his neck that had not healed completely, so his muscles acted as a splint to keep the area from moving too much and causing further damage. Treatment included techniques to reduce muscle spasm, improve movement between the layers of tissue and stimulate healing of the soft tissues and bone. He recovered when the primary sites were addressed, not the secondary protective modes.
IMT has its roots in osteopathy, a form of manual medicine using gentle forces to stimulate healing. It also utilizes energy techniques similar to Eastern medicine. More answers can be found in physics to explain how it works rather than biochemistry, the foundation of much of Western medicine. The movie “What the #$*%! (bleep) do we know!” helps to explain IMT.
How does IMT work? Ask yourself, what keeps the two bones comprising your hip from touching one another when you stand? In other words, what maintains the space of a joint? You can’t see it with the naked eye, but it’s there. It’s energy or quanta as Sharon calls it, and that is what IMT manipulates.