Specialty therapist focuses on pain relief

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Ulia Cummings has magical fingers — and palms — and knowledge of the body on a cellular level. With degrees in biology, chemistry and physical therapy, the 48-year-old native of Russia recently has opened her own special therapy business, Sequim MFR. The initials stand for myofascial release, a type of treatment that Cummings can vouch for herself.


Plagued with hip pain for 10 years and frustrated with conventional medicine’s answers — “a bunch of X-rays, a bunch of MRIs, a bunch of money” — Cummings started looking for alternative methods. She came across John F. Barnes, a worldwide expert on myofascial release, attended her first MFR training seminar, saw one of his practitioners and found relief from her unrelenting pain and a new career.


“It all made sense. I paid for a one-hour treatment and it hurt like hell because it was 10 years of fascia restrictions catching up with me,” Cummings said. “That day I was able to run — I couldn’t believe it.”


The MFR therapy turned her life around and for the past two years Cummings has devoted herself to learning all of Barnes’ techniques through his courses. She’ll become one of 75,000 certified practitioners in Barnes’ method in October — and as far as she knows — the only one on the peninsula.


“Myo” is a prefix meaning “muscle” and “fascia,” according to a medical dictionary, is “a sheet of fibrous tissue that envelops the body beneath the skin; it also encloses muscles and groups of muscles and separates their several layers or groups.”


In her brochure, Cummings writes, “Fascia is a tough connective tissue which spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. Trauma, poor posture or inflammation can create a binding down of fascia resulting in excessive pressure on nerves, muscles, blood vessels and organs … Fascial restrictions can exert about 2,000 pounds of force per square inch on pain sensitive structures.”


Cummings explained there is a great deal of science underlying myofascial restrictions and release but patients only need understand the basics: Pressure applied correctly for at least five minutes “unwinds” the fascia and releases the tension that causes pain. Over the course of treatment the fascia and muscle “relearn” their proper positions. Cummings stressed the pressure is gentle but patients should expect a tolerable burning sensation as the fascia is released.


Conditions she treats include back and neck pain, headaches, sports injuries, carpel tunnel syndrome, scoliosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, TMJ, restricted motion and post-surgical scarring.

Cummings asks each new client to fill out a questionnaire and then performs a physical assessment of the patient’s whole body.


“Everyone requires special attention. I do an elaborate assessment, identify the first restriction that needs to be removed and a plan of care,” Cummings said.


Having felt what myofascial release has done for her, Cummings said, “People get a better life, so they’re happier people and they make other people happier, too. I do what I can with my hands. Somebody helped me have a better quality of life and when I find a person who needs help, I will help.”


As a new Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce member, Sequim MFR will have an open house from 2-7 p.m. Thursday, June 20, at 181 Duke Drive, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. The public is invited.


Correction: Sequim MFR is at 181 Duke Drive in Sequim. An information box with the story on page A-5 of the June 19 Gazette listed the street number incorrectly.

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