Posted on: June 18, 2007 in Vol.18, Issue 14, Page 10
How many of your favorite hobbies require you to move your legs? It is common to take for granted the skills with which we are granted. But imagine if those skills were taken away.
When told they are paralyzed, people experience not only a blow to their physical abilities but also to their spirit. Some fall into depression and many lose hope that they will be able to enjoy life to its full potential. But that cannot be said for Irene Diamond, RT.
At the age of fifteen, Diamond was in an accident that left her paralyzed. Now 45, she is the director of the Diamond Massage & Wellness Center in San Francisco, CA, and dedicates her life to helping others gain mobility and a new-found zest for life.
Diamond found her calling early in life. “When I was 15 and doing acrobatics, I fell from a man’s shoulders and landed on my head. It left me completely paralyzed,” she stated. Diamond suffered a compression fracture and was in cervical traction for two months. She received a laminectomy and fusion to stabilize her neck. Surprisingly, Diamond was only given one session of physical therapy even though the muscles in her back and legs were almost useless from being inactive for so long.
“I was young and since they were confident I could make it up my stairs at home and could sit and stand to use the bathroom, they let me go home,” recalled Diamond. “But I had no cervical range of motion, no muscular strength and chronic pain.”
She decided to take matters into her own hands. Diamond began reading books on anatomy and therapy. She volunteered at a local rehabilitation center and gained experience with others who had severe limitations.
“I was still dealing with my own limitations and chronic neck pain, so I found a few massage therapists who I started to work with and who let me direct their sessions,” she noted. “I would have them hold specific points, which I now know to be adhesions or trigger points, and I would move my head or shoulder in specific patterns.”
Diamond recalls having immediate relief. The therapists working with her applied the same techniques to their other clients and noticed big improvements in the reduction of other patient’s pain levels and increased ranges of motion.
Knowing she was onto something, Diamond pursued physical therapy and rehabilitation at Springfield College in Massachusetts. She went on to graduate from the University of Hawaii, Manoa in 1985 with a degree in recreational therapy.
The Path to Success
Before creating her own business, Diamond worked for American Hawaii Cruises as their sports/fitness director. In 1987, she started SeaFit Tours as a way to book space on cruise ships but package it as a fitness cruise.
“We cruised the world on one and two week cruises and brought a staff of fitness professionals on each cruise,” she said.
While working on the cruises, Diamond attended massage school and began treating one or two clients a day in San Francisco to make more money. But the busier she became with massage clients, the more Diamond realized she needed to hire therapists who could work with her clients while she was out at sea.
“After contracting with the first therapist I still had more clients than I could personally work with, so I hired more therapists to handle the overflow,” Diamond said. “Slowly I realized it was time to lease a bigger space that had more than one therapy room.” Thus, the Diamond Massage & Wellness Center was established in 1998.
Today, the center works with 15 therapists and offers massage therapy, injury rehabilitation and pain management, weight loss and nutrition programs, ergonomics and pre- and post-pregnancy programs.
“We have a very high referral rate from other health care providers such as pain specialists, dentists, orthopedists and PTs but the patient doesn’t need a prescription for treatment since we are unlicensed in California,” Diamond added. And what is being referred is Irene’s very own “Diamond Method.”
The Diamond Method
Also known as Active Myofascial Therapy (AMT), The Diamond Method helps to decrease and often completely eliminate muscle tension, chronic pain and increase range of motion and flexibility. Diamond uses a non-surgical approach, combining manual myofascial therapy, neuromuscular therapy and therapeutic exercises.
“Her therapy is kind of magical,” stated April Cardelli, who sought Diamond’s help after a double mastectomy. “I don’t even know how to describe it.” Cardelli, a cancer survivor, was in constant pain after her procedure and found that lying down made it difficult to breathe.
“I was forced to sleep in a recliner chair for about a year and a half,” she recalled.
But after being referred to Diamond, Cardelli saw immediate results. She had a total of six sessions with Diamond and by the third visit, Cardelli was able to sleep a full eight hours in her bed. “I will always be grateful!” she said.
Diamond’s sessions usually last 30 minutes, though some may last an hour. “If it is a simple situation where someone has adhesions, trigger points or a spasm, I generally can give them complete relief after just one or two 30-minute sessions,” Diamond stated. “But if someone presents with a more complicated history, we design a therapy plan.”
She said her AMT method can help anyone with chronic myofascial pain and dysfunction, faulty posture or muscular imbalances. And from the growing satisfied clientele, Diamond seems to be onto something.
For more than 25 years, Joan Gibson had back problems. After three spinal surgeries, Gibson’s left leg was left partially paralyzed. She went through therapy, yet nothing seemed to alleviate her excruciating pain.
“I couldn’t work and I was still in a lot of pain,” Gibson said. “I had been a runner and walker for most of my adult life. Losing that ability was very difficult for me.”
Gibson made an appointment with Diamond and remembered being impressed by Irene’s personal experience overcoming a spinal injury. Diamond used AMT, deep tissue massages, heat therapy and stretching to help alleviate Gibson’s pain. Not only did the pain lessen, but Gibson soon regained the ability to stand up straight and walk up to 30 minutes a day.
“That was an amazing feat to me,” Gibson exclaimed. “It really inspired me to have more hope that there was the possibility of having things improve for me which I didn’t have with traditional medical treatment.”
A Brilliant Future
In addition to treating patients, Diamond has taught seminars and workshops privately as well as through the American Massage Therapy Association.
“I hope to continue teaching health care providers so they can incorporate this method into their practice,” she said.
Diamond credits her painful past for leading her to such a successful and rewarding profession.
“It is always apparent to me that those who have experienced their own trauma or physical dysfunctions make the best therapists,” she stated. “Not only have they been trained in the theory and science behind the therapy, but they have a personal experience with the healing process.”