With a winning combination of tactile techniques and verbal communication, Shanna Paopao of BodyWise Therapy, PC, provides relief to a diverse group of clients, from infants to young athletes to older adults dealing with chronic pain. In her 20 years as a physical therapist, Shanna has gained experience with all ages and conditions.
After training as a physical therapist at UNMC, Shanna worked in different places, including nursing homes, hospital inpatient wards, and outpatient settings, before going out on her own. Shanna began a partnership with another solo practitioner in 2013 and took over for her in 2014 as sole operator of BodyWise Therapy.
Shanna uses a hands-on technique called myofascial release, a term coined by John F. Barnes. The treatment itself focuses on the fascia—the connective tissue all throughout the body. “It surrounds all of our blood vessels and organs, including the brain and the spinal cord. It’s what joins everything.” It is essential to maintain the health of this layer of connective tissue. Trauma, bad posture, or inflammation may cause tension, resulting in additional pressure on sensitive nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and organs. The catch is that fascia does not appear on standard tests such as CAT scans or x-rays. Therefore, it is essential to use a tactile approach.
Shanna prefers a holistic, overall look at health and the way we move about every day. “We all need to move more,” she says. Though not all injuries are preventable, it’s true that when the body is at rest too often, the risk of fascial pain increases. Shanna likes to get a full history from each client, and she completes a physical evaluation before manipulating the fascia. “People will minimize things,” says Shanna, such as car accidents, falls, or other traumas to the body that they may not have considered before. Taking the time to go over clients’ initial paperwork, she gains in-depth knowledge of what issues might be affecting the body’s current state.
Fascia has a very high tensile strength. A prolonged, easy stretch is how Shanna describes her myofascial release sessions. “It’s like pulling taffy,” she shares. She takes her time, slowly rooting out the cause of an issue and then manipulating the body to allow for a deeper stretch and to promote healing.
Having worked with such a wide variety of clientele, Shanna has learned that everyone’s body is unique. “There’s no algorithm or set protocol,” she points out. “The challenge is figuring out everybody’s uniqueness. One person’s triggers differ from another person’s.” However, the daily challenge of serving such a diverse group is also one of Shanna’s favorite parts of her job. “I get to meet so many different people!” she says. “Everybody comes in with a unique personality, individual problems, and individual strengths.” Many of her clients have already tried other methods of pain relief or therapy before coming to see Shanna. She finds it immensely rewarding when clients tell her that they get better sleep after their appointments or that she’s made a difference in their quality of life.
Myofascial release is an ideal method for all ages because it is gentle on the body overall. Clients sometimes experience a bit of soreness after their sessions, but they may also feel relaxed or adversely energized. This is because the relaxation of the fascia in one area of the body can travel through the interconnected tissues and benefit other parts of the body, as well.
Shanna appreciates the work of her fellow therapists and would rather collaborate with them than compete. “I value what other physical therapists do,” she says. “For some patients, we can complement each other…I have some who come to me for the piece that I do and may see another therapist for another strengthening aspect.” Physical therapists who work with clients to strengthen the body through exercises have different goals than Shanna’s and, therefore, different techniques and approaches. Through myofascial release, Shanna encourages the body to work harmoniously and soothes everyday aches and pains.
No matter what their goals, Shanna advises patients to be open with their physical therapists and ask their own questions. “People should be involved in their own care,” she says. “If someone comes in and says, ‘Fix me,’ I can only do my best to do my part.” The path to health cannot be forced on anyone. However, if you want to get the maximum benefit from physical therapy, you’ll need to reinforce the work at home. “It’s a partnership,” Shanna concludes.
If you’re interested in learning more about BodyWise Therapy and myofascial release, call 402-932-8686 or visit Shanna online at bodywiseomaha.com. BodyWise Therapy, PC, is located at 2504 South 119th Street, in Omaha.