The human body is remarkably capable of healing itself, but various dysfunctions often prevent or slow down recovery and optimal healing. Also, the body’s immune and filtering systems can get so overloaded by an environmentally challenged world and emotional stresses that they can no longer process the build-up of toxins effectively and efficiently. Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT) is a functional approach to rehabilitation that works with all of the body’s systems to encourage self-healing and help it remain in optimal shape as much as possible.
IMT is offered in Kuala Lumpur by The Stretch Clinic founder Liam Harkness, a qualified sports therapist whose practice worldwide has informed his design of all the treatments at his KL and Singapore clinics. Harkness heads a team of physical therapists who provide a full suite of treatments for adults, ranging from athletes to working professionals and children. I opt for IMT, as its fundamental premise is interesting — locating the causes of the dysfunction and re-establishing the body’s natural structural and physiologic function allow the body’s innate healing abilities to return to an optimal level. I am sceptical, but also curious to see how it works.
Here in KL, treatments are conducted at The Stretch Clinic’s brightly lit and cheery facility in Plaza Batai, Kuala Lumpur and begin with an assessment of one’s general health and any underlying problem that requires special attention. Patients are advised to dress comfortably for sessions, which are done openly, rather than in a private room. Because I get regular exercise from twice weekly yoga classes, my issues were mostly related to sitting in front of a computer several hours a day — resulting in stiffness and discomfort predominantly around my shoulders and lower back. I also have one leg a few centimetres shorter than the other, which has never presented itself as a problem.
IMT is about placement of the hands based on a thorough understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathology and the use of palpation skills for assessment of the primary dysfunction. Within minutes of gentle manipulation, Harkness can tell that my minor height discrepancy has caused an imbalance of my pelvic bones, which is why I tend to be more comfortable sleeping on one side as opposed to the other. Other habits like crossing my legs have exacerbated the problem with pelvic imbalance, which affects the strength of my lower-back muscles and my range — my legs, stretched, simply do not extend outward as much as they should.
I feel markedly better after one session, and after two, I find simple physical activities much easier — my range of motion has increased in the bottom half of my body, a niggling pain in my lower back has all but gone and I feel more flexible practicing yoga. Sitting at my computer becomes much less stressful, which makes the idea of work itself less of a mental chore. Physical pain can affect mental well-being, and it is safe to assume that a heightened sense of calmness is a result of the lack of constant discomfort I had been experiencing. After every session — typically lasting an hour — Harkness recommends drinking more water than usual and plenty of rest so the body can recover from the treatment.
I enjoyed my sessions and felt enough of a difference afterwards to believe in its efficacy. No matter what, remaining healthy is a matter of personal responsibility: eating right, getting enough exercise and regular consultations with a doctor. As Harkness put it, IMT does not claim to heal or get rid of certain disorders, but only assists a person’s recovery or recuperation.
This article first appeared on Jan 6, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.