Why is it that just about everybody knows that
the little purple pill, Nexium is for acid reflux? A large
number of Americans over age 40 have or are experiencing the
symptoms of acid reflux and are very uncomfortable with it.
Additionally, advertising is alluding to long-term damage
from the erosion of the esophagus due to acid reflux. As a
result, clients awareness and fears of acid reflux and
hiatal hernias are expanding. It is unfortunate that most
people suffering with the malady do not know that there are
effective soft tissue treatments that can eliminate the symptoms
without drugs, or any other invasive medical procedure.
What are the conditions that trigger these symptoms?
Medical diagnoses include: Protrusion of the stomach upward
the esophageal hiatus of the diaphragm. (Tabers Cyclopedic
Medical Dictionary), the esophageal hiatus is the opening
in the diaphragm for the passage of the esophagus and the
vagus nerves (Dorlands Illustrated Medical Dictionary),
sliding hiatus hernia
the gastroesophageal junction and
a portion of the stomach are above the diaphragm, (The Merck
Manual, 16th edition).
Another form of hiatal hernia is a tearing in
the diaphragm that allows a portion of the stomach to protrude
through the tear. There can also be damage to the esophageal
hiatus where the esophagus empties into the stomach. When
the esophageal hiatus is damaged the sphincter valve at the
top of the stomach cannot function properly, and the contents
from the stomach can then backflow up the esophagus (acid
reflux), especially when a client is prone or supine or has
a full actively digesting stomach. Acid reflux can occur even
when there is no significant damage to the esophageal hiatus.
This can be due to overactive digestion taking place in the
stomach, overeating, or the presence of excess stomach acid.
The esophageal hiatus is located in the center
of the diaphragm. The diaphragmatic muscle attaches on the
sternum, the lower ribs, and extends all the way around to
the back including the thoracic vertebrae. This leaves it
extremely reactive to any structural distortion. If the skeletal
system misaligns, that misalignment is reflected in contractions
and distortions throughout the diaphragm. The diaphragm itself
is a muscle that responds to the somatic nervous system. When
people are stressed, they tend to contract the muscle fibers
of the diaphragm, which often exaggerates any existing structural
distortions. The sympathetic nervous system, which dominates
during stress, will continue to affect the diaphragm long
after the initial stressor has been reduced. If this takes
place over weeks or months, the resulting contractions will
become fixed in the diaphragm via the fascia, and exaggerate
any already existing distortions. Stress and structural distortions
arent the only conditions that affect the diaphragm.
If we add extra weight to the structure, we have yet another
distortion factor for the diaphragm. If the esophageal hiatus
is constantly stressed by these distortions and imbalances
of tension, it reacts like an "O" ring with unequal
pressure on all its sides, and cannot seal effectively.
Resolving hiatal hernia problems require addressing
both the structural distortions and the stresses that involve
the diaphragm. The diaphragm has surface attachments across
the sternum and ribs that attach to the sternum, but the majority
of the body of this muscle is deep in the abdomen and below
some organs. To treat this area effectively, I use the SET
three-step deep tissue approach starting with the surface
tissue and moving progressively deeper with successive strokes.
The intent of these abdominal strokes is to
release the rib cage so it can expand upward while reducing
the distortion and stress on the diaphragm. The structural
distortions of the diaphragm tend to pull down on the ribs.
During body reading prior to treatment it is usually noted
that the ribs on one side are pulled down and tighter than
on the other. The floating rib on this side will be closer
to the crest of the ilium than on the other side. To achieve
structural balance, we release this side first so the body
will not move further into distortion. There are other structural
considerations such as pelvic balancing, lumbar curvatures,
and scoliosis. However, if the diaphragm is released from
the side where the floating rib and the ilium are closer together,
the other structural distortions will be reduced as well.
Then, releasing the other side will tend to bring the ribs
further into balance, and thus release the distortions of
In releasing the diaphragm you are releasing
the stresses that have accumulated from both the sympathetic
and parasympathetic nervous systems. In addition, when releasing
the left side of the diaphragm, you will be releasing the
pathway of the vagus nerve, which is usually very tight and
restricted. Releasing this often results in a calming of the
stomach and reduction in the hyperacidity found with acid
reflux, nervous stomach, and ulcers.
Deep tissue SET strokes
release the stresses on the diaphragm for treating hiatal
hernias and acid reflux very effectively. However, the treatment
will not be complete until we have been able to smooth the
majority of the sheet-like muscle of the diaphragm. The fingers
will have worked through small areas and released rigid adhesions,
but there will be larger areas of the sheathing part of the
muscle that will still be somewhat tight and imbalanced. This
is where a softer, rounder surface than the fingertips can
smooth and integrate the diaphragm allowing even more effective
release of the esophageal hiatus allowing the sphincter valve
of the stomach to close and function properly, or take the
pressure off the diaphragmatic tear. I find holding a small
hard rubber ball or tennis ball gently against the diaphragm
under the ribs and very gently rolling it slowly along the
wall of the diaphragm to be very effective in balancing the
diaphragm. This, of course, needs to be far enough below the
ribs so as not to pull down on the ribs or in any way compromise
the xyphoid process. The ball strokes would not be effective
if we had not first released the very tight ridging in the
diaphragm with previous strokes.
Clients generally report immediate improvement
of acid reflux or hiatal hernia symptoms after just one session.
This improvement may be reported as less pain and discomfort,
less intense or fewer occurrences, or a general calming of
the area. I usually work one session per week until the client
is symptom free for a week, then schedule for 10 days until
symptom free, two weeks until symptom free, and space out
accordingly after that.
Don McCann, founder Structural Energetic