NH TREATMENT CENTER FOR HEALING & INJURY PREVENTION
Structural Integration (SI) is a manual manipulation and movement therapy of the myofascial (muscle/connective tissue) system which realigns the body with its relationship to gravity, the greatest stressor on the body. It does so by not only working the muscles of the body, but also the connective tissue (which is an integral part of everyone's unique postural patterns).
Connective Tissue, also known as Fascia, can hold years of poor posture, old injuries, scar tissue from surgery, or spiritual trauma in the body's memory. This will keep you from feeling free and comfortable in your own skin. Structural Integration relieves these long held patterns of tension through a series of sequential sessions.
The therapist will make assessments based on medical history and current postural patterns to fine tune the goals for each session and ultimately make each client's series unique.
- Who Needs Structural Integration?
- Structural Integration (SI) is indicated for:
- Pain/Physical trauma ( neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain etc.):
Although SI work is concerned with postural change, many physical traumas can get caught-up within the myofascial system (Muscle and Connective tissue). Take for example that severe ankle sprain/strain that occurred ten years ago. Did that alter your walking pattern for an extended period of time? Unknowingly, the body was being taught a new movement pattern that was faulty, and this lead to restrictions/adhesions in those faulty patterns. Did that strain just ultimately strain the ankle? Or did it also pull on the fibrous fabric leading up into the knee and hip ?
- Repetitive motion stresses:
Motor learning has been defined as "a set process associated with practice or experience leading to relatively permanent change in skilled behavior." If this new experience is any sort movement that offers resistance, the fascia is laying down fibrous strands to support the new movement, and the muscles are beginning to adapt and grow in diameter.
This movement could be part of a career job that you are now performing hour after hour and day after day. Over one year, there are more than two thousand hours (in a forty hour a week job), so if someone is doing the same repetitive movements for approximately two thousand hours in a year, what do you think their tissue is going to feel like? What is their body going to look like? Have you ever heard the expression "we are what we eat"? Well, I think, in this case, the expression can be altered to say, "we are what we do." By the time a client comes in to see a therapist, it is usually due to the presence of pain or at least discomfort.
- Postural problems / misalignment:
Most people are structurally challenged: fighting to be upright in gravity. Is it difficult to stand on your own two feet without some sort of ache or pain telling you to sit down? When you sit down, is it too much effort to sit up straight, so you slouch? Does movement seem to take more effort than necessary, and are you feeling rigid and less resilient as you get older? Fighting with gravity supports poor alignment and will result in poor health. Structural Integration is a process that helps rid the body of this poor alignment by bringing it into balance in the gravitational field, ridding it of poor health in the process. It restores the structure to function, placing the ability to heal at its disposal.
- Decrease of range of motion
- Desire to increase ROM/Flexibility
- Athletes that want to increase performance
- Pain/Physical trauma ( neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain etc.):
- How does SI work?
- The SI sessions are done in a series of 10-12 structured sessions (one hour to an hour and a half long). Each session builds upon the last with the goal of realigning the body in relationship to gravity. The work is designed to allow the body to move back into its more natural form, and become stress-free from the laws of gravity. When the body is aligned with the forces of gravity, the amount of everyday stress placed on the myofascial system will be greatly reduced.
The SI practitioner is also extremely skilled at working with physical trauma that has occurred in the body (i.e. plantar fasciitis, wry neck, sciatic type symptoms, headaches, frozen shoulder). The sessions can be tailored for postural realignment or working with trauma, repetitive strain injury etc.
'Posture is the distribution of body mass in relation to gravity over a base of support. The base of support includes structures from the feet to the base of the skull,' Kuchera & Kuchera (1997).
When these structures are not aligned, there is disharmony/stress placed on the body. Imagine carrying a heavy backpack miles upon miles while being bent at the waist. Sounds extremely uncomfortable doesn't it?
Well, now imagine a very common scenario: rounded shoulders and forward head posture. The average weight of the head is 15 pounds, so the stress that is placed on the neck and lower back with a forward head is daunting. Every inch the head is forward of the shoulders, the weight of the head doubles. Now, that head has doubled to 30 pounds. Whew, that sounds exhausting!
- What is Fascia?
- 'Fascia holds us together, greatly defines our shape, and is considered to be an organ of form' Ida Rolf
Fascia is a thin connective tissue that covers all the organs and body cavities, and this tissue envelopes every muscle and every fiber within each muscle. Fascia forms the most extensive fibrous network within the body. The fiber that is most abundant in this fibrous network is a protein fiber called collagen. Collagen fiber is the most abundant protein fiber in the body, and is the same fiber that our body knits when it makes scar tissue.
The function of fascia is to wrap, separate, and support each of the organs of the body. Fascia goes as far as to wrap each muscle fiber, as well as the whole muscle. There should be a space between the sheaths of fascia, and within this space, there should be lubrication, so the fascial layers have freedom of movement. When stress and trauma enter the picture, extra collagen (scar tissue) gets laid down, and these layers will start to adhere together. When muscle fibers are injured, the fiber and the fascia which are involved, become short and tight.
- What is the Role of Gravity?
- Now, how does gravity play such a "sinful" role on posture? "Poor posture is a faulty relationship of the various parts of the body which produces increase strain on the supporting structures, and in which, there is less efficient balance of the body over the base of support," Posture Committee of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Gravitational force is a constant and greatly underestimated systemic stressor,' Kuchera & Kuchera (1997).
The last quote makes such a strong declaration. We are always battling gravity. It is everywhere and unavoidable, unless of course you happen to be above the earth's atmosphere, floating in space or living underwater. But, when you are walking on this planet's surface (which I trust most of you do on a daily basis), you are battling this constant systemic stressor called gravity.
Imagine a broomstick running vertically down the center of your body. Now, have you ever balanced a broomstick in the center of your palm? Then you know what it is like to be one with gravity. However, as soon as the broomstick begins to fall forward, you must make compensations. If those compensations are not precise to bring the broom back in harmony with gravity, then the broom stick begins to fall to the ground. You then need to grab the stick out of the air before it hits the ground. That snatch out of the air is what your myofascial (muscle / connective tissue) system does all day long when you are not in harmony with gravity.
When imbalance or misalignment exists, the body must make compensations in order to keep itself upright. Where our body compensates is in the soft tissue, specifically in the myofascial system. The misalignment creates chronic strain within this soft tissue network. The effect of a strain within the layers of connective tissue is similar to pulling on a knit sweater. A tug in one section affects the whole fabric.
Our Structural Integration sessions are designed to lengthen the connective tissue and muscles, all with the goal of alleviating any myofascial pain, increasing movement potential, and realigning the body to a more energy efficient posture. Regaining structural alignment is one of the keys to freedom of movement and a pain-free life.
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See our List of Massage and Deep Tissue Therapies that are available at our Treatment Center in Bow, NH and Concord, NH.