Five years ago an occupational therapist was on her way back from work when her car rolled over into a ditch. She was partially ejected from her vehicle with a crushed thoracic spine, lacerated hip, broken leg and a severe head injury.
Phaedra Antioco, an occupational therapist of 14 years, now lives and works in Ahwatukee out of her own practice. Her accident and her experience with myofascial release therapy five years ago changed the course of her career forever.
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Antioco cannot remember anything from her accident. She was told about it and that she had spent two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit when she woke up in Barrow Neurological Center at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Tuscon.
“They told me several times that I had a brain injury and I couldn’t remember,” Antioco said. She said when one of the doctors looked over her CT scan he was amazed she was not on a ventilator.
Antioco’s injuries were extensive and her long road to recovery had begun.
“I was a therapist getting therapy and I had to chisel away at it and it was a lot,” Antioco said.
When she was in inpatient therapy at Barrows Institute she was introduced to myofascial release therapy.
“In one session they released all of the knots in my stomach,” Antioco said.
She recognized immediately the effectiveness of myofascial release therapy.
“It freed up all of the pain I was having and all of the tightness,” Antioco said. “When I went to go get treatment I could move my body better,” she said.
Antioco describes myofascial release therapy as, “A sustained pressure by the therapist on various parts of the body releasing muscles and changing the architecture of the body.”
Myofascial release therapy was created by Dr. John F. Barnes and focuses on fascia, or the body’s connective tissue. Fascia helps muscles glide over each other, holds organs in their proper place, and transmits movement from muscle to bone.
Fascia can become strained through trauma and stress. Myofascial release therapy releases the tension created by stress and trauma that help heal the entire system.
Antioco keeps a dried out orange in her office to show to her patients what fascia is and how it works with the muscles. The cut-in-half orange shows sections separated by a thin, white material. The material is like fascia connecting all the sections of the orange together.
Antioco is very passionate about her work and believes it saved her. She says she is a miracle and her progress seems to validate that claim.
“It worked I had instant results,” she said. “I couldn’t go back to regular therapy.”
Antioco now works full time and is on her feet all day without difficulty.
“I have learned to treat my own pain, which is what I teach my patients,” she said.
Mike Weiland, a resident of Mesa, received therapy from Antioco. Weiland suffered from a soccer injury 50 years ago and had difficulties with flexibility and motion.
“After the one treatment I was able to bend my knee,” Weiland said.
Margrit Siever, an Ahwatukee resident, received therapy from Antioco after developing lymphedema from various cancer treatments. She had tried other treatments and nothing helped. She was introduced to myofascial release therapy at a support group for cancer patients where Antioco spoke on the subject.
“I was listening to her and I kept thinking to myself this is exactly what I need,” Siever said. She sought treatment from Antioco and in the very first visit she felt relief.
“Phaedra really gets to the root of the problem and solves it. She taught me how to do certain stretches at home and she shows everyone how they can help themselves at home,” Siever said.
Fernando Alves of Goodyear has also enjoyed the success of myofascial release therapy.
“The amount of differences it makes with each treatment is amazing. I have had a lot of benefit,” Alves said. He received therapy after a doctor had recommended it. Alves has Parkinson’s disease and had problems with his neck and shoulders. Myofascial therapy has helped fight the effects of Parkinson’s and after treatments he feels lighter and looser.
The brain’s response to trauma is a key component with myofascial release therapy.
“There is the mental component and the brain is subconsciously holding the pain and the therapist can go in there and feel the pain,” Antioco said, admitting that some treatment she receives triggers the emotional trauma from her accident.
“The truck is still hitting me so to speak. I teach my brain how to handle it,” she said.
The mental component is so important some patients do not see success without it.
“Some people don’t get better because they get stuck up in their head,” Antioco said. “I go to where it hurts and I let the person feel it, and we go there and we experience it, we quiet the mind and we listen to the body.”
Antioco’s personal success with myofascial release therapy has inspired her to help others and she remains dedicated to helping those in pain.
• Matt Covert is a sophomore at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He is interning this semester for the AFN.