My name is: Dr. Stephen F. Oswald.
I live in: Harlem, NYC.
I’m known for being: A chiropractic physician of 37 years, a clinician in both Manhattan and upstate New York and a researcher, currently working with a team associated with NYU School of Medicine/Rusk Institute. Also, I teach about fascial manipulation, a highly complex, heavily science-based therapy. This has taken me to lecture halls and seminar rooms from teaching hospitals in Nanjing to people’s hospitals in Shanghai to deep into the hills of northern Iraq to Istanbul, teaching to MDs, DOMs, DCs and PTs. I am currently finishing this writing in a hotel room at 5AM in Busan, a beautiful city on the southern coast of Korea.
I’m talking about:
AOTA for written information. For the practical experience as a patient, find a Fascial Manipulation-based therapist. If you are a therapist and want to learn the technique, you will be in for a fascinating, not-so-easy, long and ultimately fascinating journey. We teach this technique in 55 countries.
You can find it at:
There are several books dedicated to the research and teaching of fascial manipulation by an institute based in Padua Italy. But you can learn about my work via my website: stephenoswaldchiropractic.com.
Before I started doing this work, I was: An actor in the avant-garde theater (with Andre Gregory, Lee Breuer, Richard Schechner, Jerzy Grotowski and others in that ragtag gang). Experimental theater back then was very physically-based—thus began my journey. I then spent six years in post-graduate school obtaining my doctorate in chiropractic medicine and pretty quickly began using soft tissue techniques, often treating these same actors I had been with before school. (I often treated them for free or nearly free, explaining that I felt bad for them in their bad life choices regarding their careers!). Although these soft tissue techniques were effective, none had any science base. The technique of fascial manipulation, which I have used as my main soft tissue technique for the past 12 years, has multiple (many, many) peer-reviewed studies, all published in mid- to upper-level medical journals.
My interest was sparked when:
In 2012, an expert in soft tissue technique, Dr. Warren Hammer, a renowned chiropractor and accomplished writer, brought Antonio Stecco, MD to New York from Italy to teach this technique. Dr. Stecco is now an MD, Ph.D on the faculty of NYU School of Medicine and is one of the developers of this technique along with Luigi Stecco, PT and Carla Stecco, MD based at Padua University. He is a colleague. We are working on our second study together and Dr. Stecco is a fellow teacher of this technique.
The idea behind it is: Fascia is the new frontier in medical research. Our research institute alone has published over 200 peer-reviewed studies in the last two decades or so, all on fascia with a high percent of the studies showing the effectiveness of the leading therapy technique, fascial manipulation. Fascia, as defined at the First Fascia Research Congress, is a highly complex, “soft tissue system that permeates the human body, forming a whole body continuous three-dimensional matrix of structural support. It surrounds and permeates all organs, muscles, nerves, bones and blood vessels, forming a unique environment for body systems functioning.” I think the key words and phrases here are “continuous,” "three dimensional,” “structural support” and the element about fascia's role in “body systems functioning.” This defines fascia's importance to me. It shows how we, as doctors, as therapists working with the musculoskeletal system, can affect parts of the body distant to where we are actually working. The very important and unique concept here is that, since a very high percent of musculoskeletal symptoms have their cause elsewhere in the body, we can now look for and very often find the actual cause of the presenting symptoms. And since we have found the cause, the patient almost never has to return to us.
My favorite lesser-known detail is: Using that definition above of fascia as a three-dimensional continuum, we have corrected a severe shoulder problem by correcting the gliding system of the fascia damaged by a fracture and then surgery of ten years before of the wrist. Fascia fibers are organized based on an optimal angle to coordinate specific muscle fibers up and down a chain of muscles in a specific pathway for highly specific movements of the joints (remember, it is a “continuous three dimensional pathway”). The fascia has multiple layers and each layer must glide off of the other to accomplish this. The glide is provided by hyaluronan (formerly termed hyaluronic acid). If there has been damage to the gliding system of any part of that pathway via overuse or trauma, even decades before, the gliding system may fail. This can lead to a dis-coordination of the muscle fibers somewhere along that pathway, thus joint malfunction and pain, again, almost always distant from the actual area damaged by the overuse or trauma. It is our task, as therapists working within the science-based bounds of fascial manipulation, to find the area that has failed, the cause, and correct it by restoring the hyaluronan-based glide to that damaged area.
I have corrected the agonizing and near career-ending left hip malfunction of an Olympic athlete by correcting the damaged fascial gliding system of the right ankle (yes, opposite side—remember the continuum) that was caused by surgery, then a fracture of the right fibula. And recently fascial manipulation helped me (along with another fascial manipulation therapist) restore the career of a professional athlete by correcting his throwing ability via rebalancing the fascia in his wrist and opposite side clavicle.
Fascia is integral to our movement and health because: Every physical movement is coordinated primarily by the fascial system. Also, let’s not forget the remainder of the definition above, that musculoskeletal fascia is in continuity with the organ systems, the nerves, blood vessels and also, we now know, lymphatic vessels. Our institute's research into our ability to treat the musculoskeletal fascia and the fascia termed "superficial fascia" to correct some of the imbalances in these systems is ongoing. The results of both research and our practical experience (empirical data) in this area are quite promising.
The words I live by are: The source of anything in our lives is often not right in front of our nose. And it is well worth the search because finding the source is what it is all about.
One truth that is so important, but people don’t always realize is: Now we know, beyond the shadow of a doubt—thanks to the research of the Fascial Manipulation Association by those researchers we collaborate with world-wide, including Helene Lagevin of Bringham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Med and Robert Schliep of University of Ulm and the many universities around the world that aid us—that the foot bone is absolutely connected to the shoulder bone. And every other bone in the body.