Interview with Myofascial Specialist, David LesondakPrint
David Lesondak is a member of the Allied Health Professional Staff in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a structural integrator and myofascial specialist at the Center for Integrative Medicine, Shadyside and iYoga in Sewickley, PA. He produced and directed "Anatomy Trains Revealed," a video exploration of fascial anatomy, as well as the DVD recordings of the Third International Fascia Research Congress. A frequent collaborator with Robert Schleip and the Fascia Research Project at Ulm University, Germany, David lectures and teaches internationally. David is an NCBTMB approved provider. His blog can be found at www.FascialConnections.com.
David, who will be leading his "Fascial Approaches Series", on June 29 and 30 and September 28th and 29th in Pottstown, PA, recently sat down with Lynn Gladieux of The Pressure Positive Company to talk about his work, his life and his passion for health and wellness.
1) David, many of our readers may not know exactly what "fascia" is. Can you explain it to us?
Fascia is the connective tissue matrix of the human body. To give you a visual, it's the white gooey stuff that you peel off the chicken before you cut it. If you think of your bones as your hard skeleton, your fascia is your soft skeleton. It's a mixture of collagen fibers and a thick fluid that covers every bone, muscle, organ and every nerve. It forms a continuous three-dimensional matrix of structure and support for the human body along with the bones.
2) What does a myofascial specialist do?
Well, "Myofascial Specialist" is just my way of making the term, "structural integrator," a little more user friendly around the hospital. Structural integration is a process first developed by Ida Rolf in the 1950's which gained great popularity in the 1970's.
Structural Integration works the fascia, as opposed to the muscle. Structural Integration works to lengthen, stretch and soften the fascia to restore postural balance, ease of movement and functional integrity. It is a hands-on process but with slow, active movement from the client as well. It can have a profound change for people in chronic pain.
Structural Integration really takes a global view of what's going on as opposed to a symptomatic view. Somebody will come in with low back pain -- which has dogged them for years -- and I will do a patho-anatomical examination (or body reading) of their posture to examine their structure or shape, if you will. I examine how the head is sitting on the shoulder girdle. Are the hips rotated in one direction, titled forward or back? What is their body structure?
Basically, what you do is look for is what looks out of whack. Then you put it together: how does their structure correlate with their pain patterns? Then you can begin to treat them, and this usually happens over 10 to 12 visits.
3) What would you say is the most common fascial-related injury you encounter?
The most common refrain I hear is, "I hurt all the time and nobody knows what to do." I love that, because those are usually the people I can help the most. Many sports injuries are more fascial than muscular, but the sort of patho-anatomical distortion I see usually builds over months and years.
The most common condition is low back pain, which can be a result of any number of things. One of the more common patterns I see is what I call greater-than syndrome. You look at a person's profile: their hips are tiling toward their feet and their rib cage is tilting up toward the sky and their belly sticks out, but that is just one of many. There are lots of different potential patterns which is why you've got to look to see what the patterns are and figure out how you are going to treat them based on their pattern. What works with one person may not work with another based on their posture. So you've got to tailor your approach to the individual.
4) You are well known for your work with Robert Schleip and the Fascia Research Project. How did you meet Schleip and how did your work with him begin?
I first met Robert at a seminar in Plano, Texas, some seven or eight years ago when he had just published some landmark research. Robert was the first Rolfer in Germany and now primarily does research but still maintains a hands-on practice to this day.
Schleip was the first to identify fascia as a contractile organ, which was pretty groundbreaking stuff in 2006. He was nice enough to sit down and let me interview him with my video camera (the video can be seen on David's website at www.fascialconnections.com or on YouTube). I then ran into him several times in Walpole, Maine, which is where Tom Meyers of "Anatomy Trains" fame lives and teaches.
To make a long story short, I signed up for Schleip's fascia "summer school" in Ulm, Germany, where I agreed to videotape the sessions and create a DVD. It became a great, ongoing collaboration; as a matter of fact, I was just in Germany shooting my third video. Coming out in June will be "Fascia Academy II" and later this summer there will be another DVD set on fascia and sports medicine. Robert will be holding another fascia summer congress in 2014, and I've been invited to speak/workshop this time, as well as my duties behind the camera, of course.
5) What impact has Schleip's work had on the community of myofascial researchers and specialists?
Huge. Robert is a clinician turned instructor turned researcher. His systematic review on mechanicorceptors, highly specialized nerve endings that respond to pressure and vibration, has been hugely influential. So to his work on fascial plasticity and elastic recoil. Both Robert and Tom Findley have made a lot of scientific information accessible to the average clinician/therapist, and they have brought validation to the work. Fascia research is an area that hasn't been studed for very long and where little is known, which is very exciting. Robert has inspired a lot of clinicians like myself to get into the research.
6) Your work takes you all over the world. What are some of your favorite travel experiences?
I love Germany. I'm going back for the fourth time in August to shoot a documentary at a music school in Lichtenberg. Lichtenberg is the quietest place I've ever been. It's a great place to unwind and explore my other passion: music.
Anywhere in Canada, particularly Banff. I have taught a lot there and I consistently have the best experiences in terms of, well, everything. The Canadians take very, very good care of me!
What makes a place special is not just the place, but the people. The enduring friendships and associations that I have made all over the world.
7) The health and wellness field seems to be exploding with interest. How does your work with some of our products fit into that paradigm?
Because I deal with patients on a limited basis, I want them to be as self-reliant as possible, not codependent on me.
I've always been impressed with the design of the Pressure Positive tools. How easy they are to use. That's the most important thing in self treatment: you want to use tools without adding additional strain. You don't want to screw up one part of your body while working on another. Pressure Positive tools allow you to perform self treatment effectively and comfortably.
8) Video production is a big part of your current efforts to educate. Whom do you hope to reach and what wisdom do you hope to impart to your viewers?
That there is more out there. That there is a bigger picture and they can be part of it.
There isn't a lot that's out there in this field and I find that people are hungry, really hungry for good information about fascia.
One of my favorite projects is still "Anatomy Trains Revealed," a three DVD companion to Tom Meyers' ground-breaking book Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Merdians. We spent five years going into cadaver labs studying the fascial layout of the body, actually dissecting the "anatomy trains" out of the body to show that Tom's theories were in anatomical reality. While I worked with the still photographer to stage the specimens for inclusion in the second edition of Anatomy Trains, we found the students really responded to the video.
In this case, the video was more compelling than still pictures. I think it gave a sense of scale to the Anatomy Trains that was harder to convey with stills.
But whether it is a lecture of experiential anatomy or manual and movement techniques, there are a lot of stories to tell in this field. And it's really fortunate to be in the position where I understand what is going on both in front and behind the camera, because I think it's easier to then find the best way to tell these stories. You want to do more than just convey information; you want it to be a watchable experience for the viewer. Fortunately, other people must think so too because they keep hiring me to tell their stories.
It's nice to be able to use all my skills in a field that I'm so passionate about. I'm very lucky.
9) I'm told music adds a rich dimension to your life. Can you tell us a little bit about your music and what it brings to your life?
I honestly can't think of a time where music didn't have an impact on me. You can argue it starts in the womb with all the sounds we hear and experience and there's a certain natural rhythm to the heart beating and the blood pumping, etc. Music is the one common global cultural uniter.
I was a disc jockey from 1992-2002 with WYEP-FM in Pittsburgh and I had the privilege to do a show that let me play any genre of music I wanted. I was able to explore a lot of different avenues and go off on a lot of different tangents as long as I kept it listenable. I've always wanted to write and perform music and in June of 2010 I got serious about it. I'm currently working on an album with local Pittsburgh musician and friend, Bob Banerjee. He's an amazing violinist and has astounding musical instincts. Look him up on YouTube; you'll be enthralled.
This has been a long-held dream of mine and it's a joy to be active in creating music and people really seem to connect to my songs and I'm thrilled that they do. It's all about connecting, which must be why I also work with connective tissue!
10) David, we've done our best to introduce you to our readers. What have we missed?
That I have six toes and an extra frontal lobe. Just kidding!
I really think you got it all, Lynn. Thank you.