How my passion for fascia led me to Padova, Italy
Written by Dr. April Graham
Rev6 Practitioner – Colorado
I first learned of the Fascial Manipulation®-Stecco® method while studying to become a Naturopathic Doctor at Bastyr University in 2015. Little did I know at the time how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to participate in the Level 1 and Level 2 courses (as well as to simultaneously become a Level 1 and Level 2 certified Rev6™ Practitioner!). When the time came for Dr. Antonio Stecco to visit the university to teach the Level 3 class, I was a week postpartum with my son. I was deeply disappointed to miss the Level 3 course, but I trusted that in the perfect timing, I would eventually take the Level 3 course.
Let me explain more about the Fascial Manipulation®-Stecco® method and how it came about. In the 1970s, a physiotherapist in Italy named Luigi Stecco became dissatisfied with the prevailing physiotherapy ideas and protocols at that time. Not being happy with the results of utilizing these protocols, he took it upon himself to become the champion of his own work and learn how he could use his hands to truly help others. His quest led him to learn about the relationship of the fascia to the musculoskeletal system and the central and autonomic nervous systems, and ultimately how the fascia was also related to internal dysfunctions (digestion, hormones, vascular problems, etc.). Stecco began teaching his method in 1995 and the first English edition of his masterpiece Fascial Manipulation for Musculoskeletal Pain was published in 2004. His method has continued to advance ever since, with the dedication of his daughter Professor Carla Stecco, an orthopedic surgeon and professor of anatomy, and his son, Dr. Antonio Stecco, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation. Both Dr. Carla Stecco and Dr. Antonio Stecco have worked to bring the Fascial Manipulation®-Stecco® method to practitioners internationally.
“I was becoming more confident with this method”
Fast forward to 2021. I had been practicing naturopathic medicine for three years and had been utilizing the Fascial Manipulation®-Stecco® method in my practice for muscular-type complaints of pain and decreased range of motion with success. I was becoming more confident with this method, and also started seeing some very complex cases that I knew would benefit from the Level 3 applications (Level 3 expands to include techniques for internal dysfunctions). There were no courses on the calendar for Level 3 in the U.S., so I decided to arrange a trip to Padova, Italy to learn directly from Dr. Antonio Stecco and Lorenzo Freschi.
I arrived a few days early to adjust to the time change and to experience a bit of Padova. I toured an olive orchard and winery and was enamored by the warm sunshine and cool breeze coming from the Adriatic Sea. While I deeply missed my husband and son, I was pretty sure I would be just fine in Italy for 10 days. I rented a touring bike and learned the lay of the land in Padova by riding through the cobblestone streets, over the Piovego canal, and experiencing the awe of the ancient structures surrounding me.
I stopped by the Fascial Manipulation Institute the day before class to receive treatment from Dr. Antonio Stecco. After studying this method for six years, it was quite a dream to be at the epicenter of Fascial Manipulation! This was a true teaching facility with high-end manual therapy tables neatly organized, facing high-tech AV equipment, and windows displaying the beautiful neighborhood. And in true Italian style, there was even an espresso machine in the student break room downstairs! I was amazed at how quickly and with a few key questions and movements, Dr. Stecco was able to find my key fascial densifications related to my low back pain. It was eye-opening how much work I had to do to practice this method in a quick and efficient manner.
On that first day of class, I realized just how international this group of practitioners was. There were about 25 of us, 4 from the U.S., and others representing countries such as Israel, Romania, Hungary, Poland, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Greece, and Croatia! What a privilege it was to study among these elite practitioners. I recognized that it was only divine providence that brought me to discover this method in 2015 and ultimately, to be studying there in Italy.
We learned a completely new way of looking at the human body (who would have even known that was possible after what we learned in Level 1 & 2?)! We learned to see the anterior trunk wall as a “container” of the organs and fascia, the hips and shoulders as “pivot points”, and our extremities as “tensors”. We learned how problems such as gastroesophageal reflux can be corrected by restoring the motility of the esophagus within the wall of the trunk. Restoring this mobility involves manipulating points throughout the trunk wall, head, hips, and extremities.
One example that stuck with me is how a high school runner might have fascial densifications along their inner thighs and ankles, and how this tension can actually cause urinary incontinence from the tension along the fascial lines. I was that 16-year-old runner with knee and ankle problems, and wouldn’t you know it, I had difficulty controlling my bladder when running in a race. The applications for fascial manipulation really are limitless.
We learned how to use this method to address nearly every dysfunction you could think of that cannot be otherwise definitively explained medically (asthma, hypertension, dizziness, thyroid, and adrenal problems, urinary incontinence, BPH, anemia, etc). When I learned to see the body in this way, I realized how intricately the body was designed, and how the idea of giving a pill, whether pharmaceutical or herbal for something that can be explained structurally is quite ridiculous! Of course, there are times we need these medicines, but this work has opened my eyes to just how much we as practitioners can do with our hands.
It was amazing to me to learn that our fat tissue can actually have what is called “attractor points”. These attractor points can be sending bad information to our peripheral autonomic system, which can lead to a miscommunication in our hormone profile, and to us putting on more fat! One of the most valuable (and painful – not gonna lie) treatments I received was on the adipose (fat) tissue in my tummy.
It was such a joy to be in community with these other practitioners of the Fascial Manipulation®-Stecco® method. We had the opportunity to visit the Anatomical Theatre of Padua together. This was the first permanent anatomical theatre in the world inaugurated in 1595. It was incredible to briefly put myself in the shoes of the students of the time, and what it was like to learn anatomy in the theatre. We also had the opportunity to see where Galileo taught at the University of Padova in the late 1500s.
I toured Verona and Lake Garda the day before returning home – soaking up the sun and the food! I was so impressed with the Italian culture – their pride in their work, their sense of humor, their incorporation of leisure time in their day, and their attention to the details. While I was sad to leave, I was relieved to finally return to my husband and 5-year-old son, and to my naturopathic medical practice.
I am looking forward to returning to Padova to hopefully become certified in this method in 2022 or 2023. In an era of constant information bombardment surrounding our health including what supplements we must have, what the latest biohack is, what essential oil is going to cure our problem, etc. it is so refreshing to know that with diligent studying and practice, there is a systematic method where we can simply use our hands to help people a good percentage of the time. And, that we can take responsibility for our health by moving in such a way to care for our fascia and nervous system.
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