The Tools of the Trade

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Lindsay Courcelle

I have a lot of conversations about surgery. Many of my clients have had surgical procedures in the past, and I work gently on their scars to loosen restrictions in the connective tissue. It has now been proven through the use of microscopic cameras that the tissue in a surgical scar is much denser and less fluid than it once was, preventing the flow of nutrition, waste and energy. Occasionally, I’ll work with people whose surgical scars seem to create a disconnect from the parts of their bodies where the operations took place. Part of my work is to help them truly feel their bodies as whole rather than parts, and to tune in and bring their awareness to those disconnected parts in particular.

It is important to note that surgery is absolutely critical in the case of many diagnoses. Life-saving operations, and those that better one’s quality of life, are diverse and plentiful.

On the other hand, I believe that many other situations can be alleviated with more gentle approaches like bodywork, herbal medicine, or simply rest. Less-invasive therapies are at least worth a try before going “under the knife.”

One client of mine is a beekeeper who had a sore thumb. When he would flex and extend it, the tendon would sort of snap, causing intense pain each time. Before seeing me, he had been to his doctor, who said they would recommend either a steroid injection or surgery. I worked with him for a couple sessions and there was a minor improvement, but it continued to be a problem. In talking with him, I learned that he had been using his smoker for beekeeping every day and I felt confident that that motion was contributing to his pain, so I suggested he experiment with different ways of holding the tool. This would allow his thumb the much-needed time to rest and heal. Within a few weeks of doing this, his thumb was back to its normal, pain-free state, and he has not had any problems since.

This is the same client who saw a surgeon a couple years ago about his back pain. The specialist had recommended surgery, which was not surprising since that was his profession. I worked with the beekeeper for twelve treatment sessions and his pain had totally diminished to the point that he canceled the surgery. Since then, he comes to see me from time to time for maintenance, but he has never again considered surgery.

In talking with another client about this topic, she told me how doctors had recommended knee replacements over a decade ago. She is still getting by without much pain and feels that knee surgery is a last resort. She worked as a nurse herself, and I appreciated hearing her perspectives on surgery in general. She said, “Of course when someone goes to see a surgeon they come away with a recommendation for surgery. It is their only tool.”

Likewise, when someone comes and sees me, I encourage them to heal themselves through manual therapy, body awareness, and other natural means. In other words, each of us working in the fields of medicine or healing has our own expertise, toolkit and bias. My point in this article is not to discount the importance of surgery, but to encourage people to realize the biases of those recommending treatment to them, whether that be from a therapist like me or a surgeon. Question your practitioners. Look at statistics.

More than anything, trust your gut. Your intuition is by and far the best tool at your disposal. Learn to hear the bias coming from a health-care practitioner, but do not let it drown out your own inner knowing and voice.

Lindsay Courcelle, CMT is a myofascial release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural health advocate. Email her at