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Structural Integration: A Fresh Approach to Pain Management

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

By Eriks Peterson

Summit County residents and visitors alike understand the effects of an active lifestyle. High intensity sports such as biking, skiing, hiking, snowboarding, and golfing can lead to tight muscles, lack of flexibility, back, hip, and neck pain.

Over time many of our ‘healthy’ activities result in shortened muscles, compressed joints and decreased range of motion. Our daily habits make matters worse. Poor posture, past injuries, chronic dehydration and low quality diet can also bind up the body’s freedom of expression making life less enjoyable. Waking up to chronic aches and pains becomes a normal part of our daily lives. Structural Integration aims at freeing these restrictions, resulting in pain reduction and enhanced well-being.

Getting a monthly massage, spending a few minutes stretching the hamstrings before a workout, or attending a weekly Yoga class is often not enough to offset the effects of an active lifestyle. Few people invest enough time for these activities to be truly effective.

Injuries, repetitive use and illnesses leave residues throughout the body called compensations. Compensations are adaptations to stress that provide support to stressed areas of the body by thickening and shortening tissue.

Although compensations are the body’s natural response to stress, they often lead to one or more of the following side effects:

Lack of flexibility
Inefficient movement patterns (i.e. Limping)
Shallow breathing
Backaches
Decreased range of motion
Pain
Poor posture
Compressed joints
Clumsiness
Lower energy levels
Higher stress levels
Decreased circulation
Asymmetries (e.g. Hip and shoulder imbalances)
A burdened feeling often associated with aging (’getting old’)

Connective tissue wrappings called fascia surround muscles, bones and organs. Fascia is highly adaptable and will shorten and thicken (compensate) in response to stress. Unfortunately, these adaptations do not dissolve when they are no longer needed and over time accumulate, creating strain patterns throughout the body.

Fascia not only surrounds, but also connects bones, muscles and organs to each other. This web of inter-connection is the reason why there is no isolated effect in the body.

Shortened tissue pulls on all of the surrounding structures, which in turn effects the placement of every other structure in the body. After a period of time these new relationships become set in the body’s matrix. Compensation anywhere eventually becomes compensation everywhere.

That’s why merely freeing a single muscle is often an ineffective strategy for creating lasting change. The rest of the body eventually pulls the tissue back into pattern (rebound).

For long lasting change to occur, a comprehensive approach that reorganizes and balances the body’s soft tissues must at some point take place. One such approach is Structural Integration (“S.I.”), often referred to as Rolfing®.

The S.I. process seeks to reverse the destructive cycle by systematically freeing up restrictions throughout the body. By applying specific pressure, the S.I. practitioner dissolves connective tissue adhesions, which restores length and space to the tissue. As space is reestablished the body experiences increased circulation, flexibility and range of motion. An easy upright posture emerges as the body is freed of its burdens.

The basic process takes place over ten sessions. Each session has specific goals that are accomplished through a combination of soft tissue manipulation and neuro-muscular reeducation.

Benefits of the Rolf Ten-Series:
Increased flexibility and range of motion
Enhanced balance and athletic performance
Quicker injury recovery
Increased circulation and energy levels
Lower stress levels resulting from a relaxed structure
Expansive breath
Upright posture
Feeling of lightness
Long lasting changes

Structural Integration compliments other therapies like massage, physical therapy, accupuncture and chiropractic. By restoring space to the connective tissue, muscles lengthen and joints unwind. This enables the interventions of these complimentary therapies to be more effective and longer lasting.

The series can erase the residues of our various activities and poor habits so that overall performance is enhanced and chronic pains are reduced. After completing the initial Rolf Series when patterns start to set in again, it usually only takes a tune-up session to restore the openness achieved during the series. Seasonal tune-up sessions can be an effective strategy to help maintain healthy resilient tissue throughout the year.

Structural Integration has been around for over fifty years. Many professional athletes have used this process in both injury recovery and athletic enhancement with great success. Notable ones include: Charles Barkley, Ivan Lendl, Danelle Ballangee and Edwin Moses.

This process effectively wipes the slate clean of the degenerative effects of an active lifestyle, repetitive use, poor posture and injury. Imagine hitting a reset button for your body. The commitment to this process is rewarded with enhanced well being and a better quality of life.

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