My FDM Miracle Moment

Eight years ago, during my senior year of high school, I was completing a drill in basketball practice when I collided with a teammate.

Sitting on the court, I knew immediately that something was wrong with my knee.

Our town’s Physician Assistant (PA) saw me on two different occasions over the two weeks that followed, and said it was just a strain. I kept passing the knee ligament tests and the swelling did not go down because I kept practicing on it. My coach offered the same diagnosis. 

You’re fine. If anything, you’re just looking for attention.

It’s not hard to see how I was able to convince myself that they were right; that it must not be that bad. However, all the convincing in the world couldn’t outweigh the confusion of constantly falling during practice. After falling for what seemed like the tenth time, I finally went and got an MRI.

My ACL was completely torn along with my medial meniscus. It turns out I wasn’t fine after all, surgery was scheduled, and I had a successful hamstring graft ACL reconstruction.

Recovery was difficult for me. I felt like my leg just didn’t heal as well as I had hoped. A few weeks after surgery I was left with a big section of leg that had a funky paresthesia. At the time I had been sure that they had cut a superficial nerve during the surgery, so I described it as an inability to feel superficial touch, but pressure remained intact in the entire anterior compartment of my leg from my knee down. Without those biases now, I would describe it entirely differently.

It felt like a layer of burning skin on top of a layer of freezing skin.

It always was tingling. Any contact resulted in a wildly uncomfortable sensation, but I wouldn’t use the word pain to describe it. I was always aware of a pant leg touching my skin, shaving my leg was almost unbearable, and certain sitting and sleeping positions were very uncomfortable. At follow-up, the surgeon said he likely cut a nerve and that sensation may or may not come back.

Over the years, I developed a real touch aversion on my leg, and it’s had bare minimum touch over the past eight years. I’ve had massage therapists work on it a bit, but that was extremely uncomfortable. I also was very involved with CranioSacral Therapy (CST) and was sure that I was going to have the “POOF, all better!” moment when I took the fourth-class last summer. Instead, I left the class with the recognition that my body had tried to heal my leg, but it wasn’t ever going to get better. I still believe that if CST had the ability to heal my leg that it would have, but even our favorite manual treatments can’t fix everything.

Going through my first year, I began to suspect that the damage wasn’t nerve related. What I was feeling seemed outside of typical nerve damage. This brought back all those “you are just making it up” feelings that I had when I first got the injury. 

I had seen a DO use the Fascial Distortion Model (FDM) on his patients for pain relief and the patients almost always left significantly better, but I associated it with pain relief and didn’t really think that it could help me. Because of that misconception, I didn’t ask Paige or Tom – Undergraduate Fellows in our University’s Osteopathic Principles & Practice (OPP) department -- to try it on my leg all year long. But when I heard the description of a cylinder distortion in the FDM class, it sounded like a close description to my leg. 

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The next few hours were rough. It was the most my leg had been touched in eight years and all of it was uncomfortable, but it was the process that my leg fascia needed to heal. Between the tectonic fixation distortion that Dr. Todd Capistrant – PNWU’s Regional Assistant Dean of Fairbanks and one of only a handful of physicians in the United States certified to teach seminars on the model -- did on it, the lighter cylinder distortion techniques that Ashton (another PNWU medical student) used, and finally the cups that Ashton moved in a zig zag pattern, I had my “POOF, all better!” moment.

It felt incredibly validating. I had pretty much given up on anything making it better. Even though there is still a little bit of cylinder distortion left to work on, after this first class, I’m a believer!

I highly recommend giving it a try for your patient’s that have weird stuff that just isn’t explained by anything else. I also have a new-found respect for fibromyalgia patients. If they have the same cylinder distortion that I had on my leg, except on their whole body, activities of daily living must be incredibly difficult.

If there is something that can help, like FDM, it is definitely worth giving it a try.


Jessica Cole

Osteopathic Medical Student - 1st Year (OMS I)

Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences

Jessica Cole