Wellness Through Structural Integration
This holistic approach focuses on connective tissue.
by Marcella Durand, February 1, 2021
As an active member of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), from time to time, I come across interesting articles that would make a good read. This article was published on February 1st, 202,1 and is found in the AMTA Massage Therapy Journals. To read this article in its entirety, click on the link below.
EXCERPT FROM THE Wellness Through Structural Integration Post
There are substantial differences between structural integration (SI) and massage in rationale, technique, and training,” says Eric Jacobson, Ph.D., MPH, president of the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation and lecturer of Global Health & Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “It is a different way of looking at the body.” Developed by biochemist Ida P. Rolf in the 1940s, SI is a form of massage therapy that treats the body as a holistic system, with a particular focus on fascia, a connective tissue that surrounds the body’s muscles, blood vessels, organs and nerves.1
SI is based on a thorough understanding of the body’s fascial anatomy and applying very specific hands-on techniques to integrate the structures of the body into a more organized whole,” say Ann and Lynn Teachworth, co-founders of Trunamics in Orlando, Florida. “Most pain and tension in the body result from structural imbalances due to chronically shortened or lengthened tissue. So, in SI, instead of chasing pain, we seek to address its causative factors.”
Practitioners often choose to study SI after they have experienced it themselves. “When I got off that table,” Lynn Teachworth, LMT, remembers, “I knew right there that if I didn’t learn it, I would be limiting my potential impact for clients. It was such a profound change in my body.”
I find that athletes, performers, actors, and dancers are great candidates for SI because they are people who are constantly looking for ways to enhance performance,” Scupham says. “And the demands of performance often leave a history of injuries and strain in the structure, which SI can significantly alleviate.”
The Mystery of Fascia
Jacobson describes fascia as “a gelatin with lots of protein fibers—it’s like a biological fabric.” But that said, he stresses that “very little is known about fascia,” particularly how it functions on an everyday level in living people.
Organizations such as the Fascia Research Society2 hope to support and encourage more research to better understand fascia. A 2020 workshop sponsored by the National Institutes of Health HEAL Initiative focused on myofascial pain, identifying new directions where research might go. These include using up-to-date imaging techniques to understand the complex interactions between muscles and fascia.3
The fascial system is an amazingly designed web that transfers, converts and absorbs force,” says Ann Teachworth, LMT, “and where we find a lot of our proprioceptors,” which provide our sense of where our body is in space. According to a 2018 article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, “a high density of nerves is found in fascial tissue.”4
Jacobson emphasizes the need for more research to establish SI as a reliable and acceptable pain intervention in clinical settings. “It’s important to establish the mechanism of how it works,” he says. “If you have a credible mechanism, you are taken seriously, and if you don’t, you are not.” Acupuncture, he says, has a proven mechanism that allowed researchers to conclude it helps with pain. As a result, acupuncture is now generally accepted in clinical settings.
A 2020 study in Front Physiology assessed the effectiveness of 10 sessions of SI on the fascial tissue of 13 women.5 The researchers found that the SI interventions “demonstrated positive effects on increasing superficial blood perfusion, contributed to a decrease in FT [fascial tissue] stiffness and an increase in elasticity properties in the dominant upper limb.” According to Jacobson, there is more research in the pipeline. “We need two things: clinical trials and case series. We need to know how SI has its effect, and we need to show it has a good clinical effect.”
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