Dr. Loren Fishman on Using Yoga to Heal Rotator Cuff Injuries

In this interview, Yoga U Online Mg. Editor Eva Norlyk Smith, Ph.D. talks with Dr. Loren Fishman about his groundbreaking discovery of how yoga can be used to treat shoulder injuries. Dr. Fishman has used the technique to help more than 700 people avoid rotator cuff surgery.

In his recorded Yoga U webinar, Creating a Safe Yoga Practice – Keys to Avoiding Shoulder Injuries, Dr. Fishman and Ellen Saltonstall shared the details of this ground-breaking technique and offered general advice on creating a safe yoga practice targeting the shoulder joint.

Yoga U Online: Dr. Fishman, as I understand it, for many years now, you have used yoga as therapy to treat people with shoulder cuff injuries, and helped them recover without surgery. How did you discover that yoga could help heal rotator cuff tears?

Dr. Fishman: Well, it was completely by accident. I had rotator cuff tear myself, and while doing yoga, I was amazed to find that after a certain Iyengar-style pose, the pain was gone and I could raise my arm in almost every direction without any pain or weakness.

Yoga U Online:  And it wasn’t just a short-lived improvement?

Dr. Fishman: No, it remained that way. And, when I finally got to see the great specialist orthopedic surgeons that my serious tear warranted,  they both said ‘Don’t have surgery. You’re doing much better this way than you’ll ever do with surgery!’

Yoga U Online:  And being a doctor specializing in Rehabilitation Medicine, I presume, this wasn’t the end of the story?

Dr. Fishman: No, that was only the beginning. I did the type of analysis that only a doctor-yogi could do:  I had a number of MRI’s CT scans and fairly exhaustive electrophysiological testing to figure out what had happened.   After that, I took the next 10 patients who came to me with rotator cuff injuries, and I asked them if they would like to try the same procedure. They didn’t stand on their heads, we used a chair variation. And 9 out of 10 of them got completely better on the spot.

Yoga U Online:  That’s impressive.

Dr. Fishman: Well, that was just the start. I now have 726 patients that I’ve done this on over the last 9 years. There’s a more than 90 percent success rate, with a number of follow-up MRI’s.

Yoga U Online:  You have a study coming out on the results, don’t you?

Dr. Fishman: Yes, I followed 50 people for 36 months, and they did better than the other treatment groups, whether they had surgery or they had arthroscopic work done. That study will be published in Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation on May 15th. It showed that this really is a superior way to treat rotator cuff injuries. People get greater range of motion and experience less pain

Yoga U Online: Will you be sharing this technique in your webinar on shoulder injuries and how to avoid them? (For information on Dr. Fishman’s webinar, click here Creating a Safe Yoga Practice – Keys to Avoiding Shoulder Injuries.)

Dr. Fishman: Yes. In the webinar, we’ll cover the basics of avoiding shoulder injuries in yoga, which is one of the most common yoga injuries. Ellen Saltonstall is a masterful teacher and therapist who understands the ins and outs of yoga injuries.  We queried 33,000 yoga teachers, therapists and students from 38 countries and know the lay of the land. But we will also be going over the detailed anatomy of how this particular technique for using yoga to heal rotator cuff tears works, and how to use it with students. There are certain instructions you need to give to make sure it is done the right way.

Yoga U Online:  It seems like this is yet another therapeutic use of yoga that there is too little awareness of.

Dr. Fishman: Yes, indeed. There’s hardly any cost. No pain. Plus, with surgery, you’re disabled for 3 months. With this technique, you’re not disabled at all.

I had a 6 foot 9 inch basketball player come in who couldn’t raise his arm, no matter what. And I showed him the method, using a door. In 30 seconds or so, he could raise his arm all the way. He looked at me and he said, “It’s a f-#%ing miracle.”

See here for more information on Dr. Fishman’s course on YogaUOnline: Creating a Safe Yoga Practice – Keys to a Healthy Shoulder Joint

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