A blog about how cancer can affect the musculoskeletal system in a way that can cause debilitating physical dysfunction. In this case, practitioner Natalie Rinaldi discusses her experience with a client suffering from loss of knee function and hamstring dysfunction as a result of cancer. 

By Natalie Rinaldi

‘We will get you walking again’-Is the first thing I said to a client who came to see me 4 weeks ago.  This client walked in with; one not so fully functional leg, one crutch and a bubbly personality.  After 4 treatments, my client was walking again and more than 70% more functional.

Hi everyone, my Name is Natalie and I am one of the new practitioners to join the Melbourne Muscular Therapy Team.  I wanted to write my own blog but wasn’t entirely sure where to go about starting it or what to talk about.  But then I came across one extraordinary client and thought that I’d make my first blog a personal reflection about how the way we treat at Melbourne Muscular Therapy has helped my client walk again.

4 weeks ago I had a client book in with me for treatment.  Approaching me, he had one crutch assisting him in walking with quite evidently an injured right leg. Initial consultation with this client had revealed that 2 years ago he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer also known as bone sarcoma in the right knee.  For those who are unaware of this cancer, it starts as a tumour on the bone. As the cancer cells spread so can the cancer, eating away at the bone.  The only symptom my client presented with 2 years ago was pain in the knee cap- this is when he attended regular physio sessions.  After 4 months of physiotherapy with no improvement he was told to seek help elsewhere.  Post physiotherapy, my client decided to get a scan. This scan came back positive for bone sarcoma in the patella and within days he was admitted into a 6 hour surgery.

When my client was out of surgery he was cancer free, however was also 15cm shorter in his femur- with only 50% of his quadriceps muscles remaining in his right leg and a large amount of metal plates internally inserted from mid femur, through his right knee down to near mid calve. He was able to keep his anterior knee cap and surrounding ligaments but all other areas were as he says ‘not real’.  He was aware of his long road to recovery.

Two years later he was perfectly healthy, fit and active. Little over a month ago, he woke up unable to fully extend his right leg. This knee was locked in an almost 45 degree angle, now using crutches to help assist his walk.  We’ve immediately started treatment.  

The treatment we use at Melbourne Muscular Therapy is called “Solidified Connective Tissue Release (SCT Release) and aims to release solidified and adhesive tissue- by using a very slow and deep technique to melt away superficial tissue to get to the deep underlying issue.  I began working through and releasing the solidified tissue on my clients right hamstring and right calve, both of which were extremely hypertonic due to the muscles being fully active and contracted for the past two weeks.  Using SCT Release we were aiming to; melt solidified tissue and get to the depth needed to break through all the hypertonic musculature that was superficial to my clients right posterior leg. This slow tactful nature of our hands-on treatment allows us to clean out blockages and damage within the connective tissues. Given the fact my clients knee was 70% metal, it is quite difficult to assess what exactly was causing this blockage, whether it was muscle, or coming directly through the knee joint. Slow, deliberate strokes allowed us to get deep between the metal to release anything that may have been caught in between the metal itself or the joint as well as targeting muscle insertion points and ligament insertions, this being done with a combination of knee joint mobilisations. 

We began treatment one with 2 rolled towels supporting underneath the right leg. At the end of our first treatment the results were incredible with an already nearly 10 degree difference in knee extension.  For the following 3 weeks we treated in the same way- solidifying posterior leg and knee tissue as well as anterior quadriceps to also eliminate scar tissue which could be playing a part in the locked knee. The following video is an example of ‘Solidified Connective Tissue Release’ applied to the hamstring and calf.


The issue that was then arising was due to the fact my client could not walk on his full right foot, his plantar fascia was working overtime to support the leg (easily understood as females wearing heels- for 3 weeks straight) so plantar fascia release was a must as well as glute and hip treatments to bilateral sides of my client due to the compensation that had now been occurring for over a month to his left side. My client also began feelings of a pinch in his right lateral glute which was caused by excessive load through the gluteal region from limping and poor gait. Slow and deep clean out treatments have since decreased this pinching. With my clients gait being affected quite severely it was important that both anterior and posterior hip clean-outs were done also to allow full mobility through the hip joints and avoid any build up, catching or blocking.

We are now in week 4 of treatment with my client. He has been seeing me once a week and receiving exercises from a specialised cancer physio once a week- He is now walking without a crutch, has improved his degree of leg flexion by over 25 degrees (can lay face down with what was originally 2 rolled towels supporting his leg, now only 1 square folded towel) and feels less restriction in his legs and hips.  He knows his recovery will not be quick but with a combination of deep tissue solidifying technique we use here at MMT and joint mobilisations and muscle lengthening exercises given by me as well as specialised physiotherapy exercises, he can see amazing improvement and is eager to have his normal gait back.

For anyone who has had or is currently dealing with cancer which may be restricting the way you move- DON’T LET IT WIN, let this post be an inspiration to you and your body to keep fighting!


Just remember- Every fighter was once a contender that refused to give up-Rocky Balboa.


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