Manual therapies may help with infertility

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Manual therapies may help with infertility

Preliminary studies out of a physical therapy practice in Florida show promise that certain manual therapies may reverse a condition that causes infertility in women.

Clear Passages Therapies, with clinics in Jacksonville and Gainesville, has embarked on scientifically controlled trials to determine if site-specific manual therapies, including myofascial release, decrease adhesions that block fallopian tubes. Tubal blockage, or occlusion, is blamed for 40 percent of infertility cases among American women, according to studies published in the published during the past 20 years in leading gynocological journals, including the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynocology (1980; 138: 880-892).

The trials will attempt to recreate results of five years' worth of anecdotal evidence from Clear Passages that yielded a 75 percent success rate in treating infertility.

Sixty women diagnosed with two blocked fallopian tubes will participate in the two-year study, and will receive free treatments for 16 weeks in an attempt to clear at least one of the tubes, according to Larry Wurn, L.M.T., who owns the practice with his wife, Belinda, a physical therapist.

"If we can show that what we do with our hands decreases adhesions then we have proof beyond patient stories that we may be able to help with pain or dysfunction from adhesion, not just infertility," said Wurn.

Five years ago, the Wurns accidentally stumbled upon the connection between their work and infertility treatments. A patient receiving treatment on her pelvic floor for pain stemming from a car wreck reported that she was pregnant. Seven years earlier, she had been diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes, and had been unable to get pregnant.

With the encouragement of a physician friend, the Wurns began seeing women who had been diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes and had not had success with traditional fertility treatments. They even treated the physician's wife, who had tried for 12 years -- and had a medical file two-and-a-half-inches thick, Larry Wurn said -- to get pregnant. After eight treatments she was pregnant.

The results were more than promising: Four of the eight women the Wurns treated became pregnant. Of the four women that did not became pregnant, two saw clearing of adhesions in their fallopian tubes.

"We started looking around for a physician who would like to investigate this with us," Wurn said.

The Wurns hired gynecologist Gregory J. Bailey, M.D., of Gainesville, to work with them, and in analysis company to handle the randomized controlled scientific tests. The scope of the study is limited to decreasing adhesions in the fallopian passages. Wurn said that this is more easily measured than a pregnancy outcome, which can be affected by other factors.

Study participants were solicited from newspaper advertisements, and will undergo manual therapy that includes soft tissue mobilization, myofascial release and visceral manipulation. The techniques are applied both inside and outside the body. The constant pressure used helps break down adhesions that form from collagen deposits following surgery, infection and trauma, Wurn said.

"Adhesions are like scars that form on your skin when you are cut. When we have an infection, inflammation, injury or trauma, collagen comes in to stop the bleeding and fight infection," Wurn said. "We believe that collagen cross-links lay down between layers of connective tissue to cause scar tissue, or adhesions."

When the collagen is manipulated, the adhesions break down and there is myofascial release that often decreases pain elsewhere in the body, Wurn said. It's an effect that he and the patient can feel happening at the time. "It's like pulling out saltwater taffy in slow motion."

The Wurns studied under John Barnes, P.T., to learn the techniques of myofascial release, and learned visceral manipulation and manual urogenital therapy at an osteopathic university in France. Wurn said that most of the techniques used at Clear Passages are based on physical therapy concepts.

Wurn's interest in manual therapy began 14 years ago after radiation therapy for his wife's cervical cancer left her with adhesions that were causing back and head pain. A curator at the San Francisco Museum of Fine Art at the time, he began taking massage and myofascial release classes to help his wife. He and Belinda have since refined their practice to work specifically with women's health problems.

Massage Magazine, Inc.

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By Kelle Walsh

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