Dr. Mitchell Yass, DPT is the creator of the Yass Method for diagnosing and treating chronic pain; author of The Pain Cure Rx released internationally by Hay House Publishing in 2015. Here he talks about how he’s re-thinking how we treat chronic pain.
Tell us about your practice. What sets you apart from other practitioners in your area?
My method is unique to me because it is the only method I am aware that determines the cause of pain by interpreting the symptoms presented by the body along with performing simple physical tests. Most other practitioners are dependent on diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRIs to identify the tissue eliciting the symptoms.
Studies have shown that as many people without pain as with pain can have the same structural variations like herniated discs, stenosis and arthritis identified on diagnostic tests. Of even greater concern muscular causes cannot show up on any diagnostic tests. Therefore if a muscle strains and elicits pain in the lower back and an MRI finds stenosis, the stenosis will always be treated inappropriately leaving the person in pain and never addressing the true cause of pain.
Roughly 90 percent of patients are diagnosed incorrectly through the use of diagnostic tests as seen by these two statistics:
1. Over the age of 60, 90 percent of people with no back pain have been found to have bulging or degenerative discs.
2. 85 percent of patients with back pain could not have their back pain associated with a structural variation like a herniated disc or stenosis (3 percent and 4 percent respectively).
My method allows for all potential tissues to be identified because muscle, bone and nerve all create specific types of symptoms. If a method is incapable of identifying all potential causes of pain then how can you trust that the right tissue was identified. In 90 percent percent of cases, the cause is muscular and targeted strength training is required to resolve the cause. This means that an in-depth understanding of biomechanics and physics of weight living and movement/function is a necessity.
Seven years of medical school and no weight-lifting course with physical therapy curriculum. An understanding of progressive resistance training is required to progress the strength of muscles to get them to be able to perform functional tasks without straining and eliciting pain. I am self taught in this area and then have treated over 14,000 patients using my methodology. My method is also the only one that has a theory as to why pain occurs in most cases. It is because people are trying to perform functional tasks and don’t have enough strength in the muscles that make up the mechanisms performing the tasks. This can lead a muscle to strain or cause another muscle to compensate and strain or cause misalignment of joint surfaces causing pain at a joint.
My intention is to create a unification of all medical practitioner around my method. There can no longer be specialists with splintered understandings not capable of understanding all potential potential causes of pain. Diagnostic tests must be abolished as the primary method for diagnosing the cause of pain and only be used when the presentation of symptoms indicates that the cause is structural(less than 5 percent of all cases of pain).
We’d like to talk about a patient success story you’re especially proud of. Tell us about the patient. How did they learn about your practice?
One of the most extreme cases I have ever treated was a lady named Ann. She has progressive scoliosis which continued over 40 years. She had pain at the back and after 10 years of taking addictive pain medication she was told her only option was a surgery in which a rod would be put in her spine from her skull to her pelvis. It was so extreme that a heart surgeon would be involved to stop her heart during the placement of the rod. She was told to put on 60 pounds of fat because after the surgery she would be in bed for the next year due to pain and she would have to live off her fat.
It seemed to be a God send that she found out about me. She came to live with her mother in Florida while putting the weight on before the surgery. Her mother belonged to a club in which I was giving a lecture and her mother told her about me. Ann said I couldn’t help her because I specialized in the resolution of pain and she was getting surgery to repair scoliosis. Just about this time, a patient I had treated who was told she needed knee surgery for a torn meniscus which was not true and I resolved her pain which was really due to a hamstring strain happened to live in Ann’s development. When this woman saw Ann and told her about the episode of how I saved her from an unnecessary surgery and Ann told her that I was giving a seminar at her mother’s club, Ann saw this a divine providence and decided to come to the seminar.
I explained that scoliosis is a ridiculous diagnosis as it implies that pain is coming from a vertebrae and unless the vertebrae is fractured bone would not cause pain. The pain was actually from a muscle imbalance between muscles on either side of the spine as well as front to back. I started treating Ann and within the first day she saw a decrease in pain. Within three months she was pain-free and off all pain medication. Ann can now do what ever she wants including water skiing. She thanks God that she never went through that surgery .
Why did this patient come to your practice? What problems were they experiencing?
Ann came to me because she was at a loss and nothing was able to affect the pain she was experiencing at her back and she was able to perform no functional activities and had no quality of life. She was desperate enough to consider a surgery that was to keep her in bed for one year after the surgery due to pain that would be experienced from the surgery.
How did you go about diagnosing him or her?
The diagnostic method I used was the Yass Method. It was a combination of interpreting her body’s presentation of symptoms which primarily indicated that the pain she was experiencing was being elicited from her lower back muscles. The Yass method recognizes that muscles work together to perform functional activities as part of mechanisms. An in-depth understanding of which muscles work together is a key. Evaluating function and posture are also important factors. Eventually a narrative must be identified describing which tissue is eliciting the symptoms; what about the presentation of the symptoms and tests tell you this and what is going to be done to resolve the distress of the tissue eliciting the symptoms.
What treatment course did you decide on?
The treatment consisted of massage and stretching to maximize the length of muscles so they would create their maximal force and then targeted strength training of the specific muscles involved in creating the symptoms and dysfunction.
The Yass method also recognizes that if symptoms exist when performing tasks this means that specific muscles are either weak or imbalance. It is only these muscles that must be strengthened and can only be strengthened through an understanding of progressive resistance. The ultimate goal was to teach Ann how to maintain the exercise routine designed for her continue to progress the resistance so she could perform any task without the chance of straining and eliciting symptoms.
What was the impact your treatment had on the patient? How did you help him or her?
The impact of the treatment was massive and complete. Ann became pain-free and ended the use of all medications. Ann’s functional level rose to the point where she was able to water ski on one ski which is her passion and was something she thought she would never be able to do again.
I ended up treating her father-in-law, mother, two sisters and two sons because of the results I achieved with her. All of her relatives traveled from Indiana to Florida for me to treat them. In fact, 95 percent of the patients I treat are not from within my vicinity. They come from all around the country. I have even had patients travel from Canada to Florida.
What advice would you give PT students today? For instance looking back at your own career is there anything you would do differently?
The advice I would give PT students is to challenge everything that is taught to you. Don’t accept that anything is valid simply because it is taught or because a lot of people say it is. Magellan, Einstein and other have proven that just because enough people say something a lot does not make it fact.
Please talk about any ways you are trying to impact the community you’re a part of:
Yass Global Enterprises is trying to create a worldwide path to people so they can get the information they need to resolve their pain. One-hundred-twenty million Americans and over 1 billion people worldwide are suffering from chronic pain for no other reason then the ineptness of the exiting model.
Clearly, in almost all cases chronic pain is nothing more than misdiagnosed acute pain. The Yass method provides a logically based theoretically, clinically and scientifically proven method to properly identify the tissue eliciting symptoms. In more than 90 percent of cases it is muscular and targeted strength training can resolve the symptoms and return the patient to full functional capacity quickly and effectively. We are in the process of developing multiple platforms and mechanisms to reach people worldwide including an app and other internet-based methods. The goal is clear: to obliterate chronic pain so people can have the pain-free fully functional life they deserve.
What is the funniest thing, if any, that has happened to you in practice?
I am not really sure I can think of a funny incident that has occurred. When dealing with people in dire straits with pain for years and leading to insane practices like ablations and rhizotomies, emotions run really high. Upon finding out that there is a easy, reasonable method that can quickly end somebody’s pain and give them their lives back, usually leads to crying for joy and a sense that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Anything (that you care to admit) that you would never do again?
I am not sure there is anything I can think of that I would never do again. My career and my path to this point has been a massive learning experience as I am trailblazing a way to global realization. I have most likely made many mistakes but most extremely successful people acknowledge that it is the mistakes you make that lead to success down the road. Because of this thought I would expect to continue to make mistakes. I guess the hope is not to make the ones I have made in the past.
Last Updated on November 29, 2021