Lets start off with a few Before & After Photo, shall we?
Before & After
What is Structural Integration?
Structural Integration is a manual therapy that works to realign, and balance the anatomical structure of the body, by manipulating and organizing the connective layer called fascia within the field of gravity. It is a customized ten session process that starts with the feet then continues to the rest of the body, focusing on what the patient needs most.
How is Structural Integration different from
The four main things that set Structural Integration apart from other therapies are;
1 – Structural Integrators look at the body as a whole. Understanding that everything is connected is crucial to what we do and how we do it.
2- We take gravity into consideration. No other therapy does that, but gravity is important because it is constant, and it can work for you or against you, depending on where your structure is within the field of gravity.
3- We work with the facial layer. Massage therapist work with muscle. Chiropractors work with bones. Structural Integrators focus on fascia. Bones are at the mercy of muscles, while muscle is at the mercy of fascia, and since fascia is found everywhere… organizing it properly directly effects muscle, and bone.
4- Neuromuscular reeducation. Creating awareness is key. Proprioception is the knowledge of being in a certain space at a certain time. This is where muscle memory comes into play, and the majority of it is found in fascia. By creating awareness, proprioception can be changed. This is called, repatterning and is ultimately neuromuscular reeducation.
What does Gravity have to do with any of this?
No other therapy takes into consideration that gravity is there, from the day we are born, till the day we die. It is a constant force that flows through an ideal structure– in and out. However, in a random structure – gravity can have a negative effect due to the stress caused by lack of proper balance.
It doesnt take a genius to figure out, that if you stack a set of blocks one directly on top of the other, the structure is stable, because gravity is able to flow through it, in one line. Look at the child, he is happy.. because he knows if big brother comes running by.. his blocks will not fall down.
Now lets look at baby number two. His blocks, although stacked one on top of the other, are NOT aligned. Gravity, is flowing through, and pulling down, on multiple areas of his tower. So, although this kid looks happy.. he is worried, because he knows if big brother runs by.. those blocks will fall down.
Ideal & Random – What does this mean?
When I say Ideal Structure, I literally mean blocks/sections/human bones, stacked one on top of the other; which allows gravity to flow through in ONE LINE. There really isnt much to it. Lets look at some pictures.
This building, is stacked in a very balanced manner. During an earthquake, it would hold its ground, and since its properly stacked.. it will also last longer. This is what I would call, and Ideal Structure.
Now lets look at another building. This one:
This building, is crazy. I would not want to be in this building during an earthquake. Gravity is not flowing through one line, but is pulling down on several exposed surface areas. This structure will not last very long, because of the stress put on by it being what is called a Random Structure.
What is Fascia?
The fascial layer is collagen based connective tissue found in all areas of the body that organizes everything, and works as a lubricant. It wraps every muscle, every muscle bundle within the muscle, as well as blood vessels, and nerves.
Think of it as a wet, sticky spider web.
This is what it looks like in a live human body:
Here is another great illustration of how fascia wraps everything on the large, and small scale.
In a healthy balanced structure, the facial layer is smooth and functioning. This is an image of healthy muscle/fascial tissue under microscope. Notice how the striation is visible.
Now lets take a look at what scar tissue looks like. The jumbled mess you see in the following picture is what happens to the fascial layer during injury, over use, or under use. Its a mess. And this mess, pulls with it muscle tissue, which restricts full range of motion, along with restricted blood flow, because blood vessels also get trapped, and pulled along for the ride.
Understanding that EVERYTHING is connected.
Acknowledging that everything is connected is crucial to understanding how the fascial layer functions, and how structural integration works. Because fascia wraps everything, on the larger scale, it is like bed sheet. Imagine a flat sheet spread over a mattress. If I pull on one corner of a bed sheet, does the rest of the sheet move? Of course it does. Because its all one unit. This is the same concept applied to the fascial system. If I’m working the lower back, is the upper back affected? Absolutely.
How does Structural Integration work?
Unlike massage, every stroke is thought out to organize and balance tissue that is bound up or not in its place.
Pressure creates heat, which melts the fascia making it pliable and movable.
Ideal VS Random in the Human Body
As Structural Integrators, we read the body to determine what is going on underneath. The image above is a great representation of what an “Ideal” structure looks like, verses a “Random” structure.
Gravity’s Affect on the Human Structure & Compensation
Compensation occurs when there is an injury, or lack of support in one body part.. causing the part across, or above, to pick up the slack… so to speak. This is also the reason that SI treatment starts with the feet. The feet are your base, it is what is constantly connected to the ground, and what supports the rest of your structure. If the feet are not stable, or balanced, or have had a previous injury, knees & hips will compensate. And when the knees/hips are mis-aligned because they are compensating, the shoulders end up compensating, as well as the neck and head. Remember, everything is connected!
When human energy field and gravity are at war, needless to say gravity wins every time.
Example of My Personal Work on a Patient
(all photo rights obtained, please do not copy, or save)
After a sever car accident, and two years spent recovering (which also involved going to see a number of chiropractors and massage therapists in the area) – this patient was still experiencing mild to sever, mid back pain. If you look at his Before Session 1 photograph, you can clearly see a tilt/rotation in his pelvis, which was causing his upper body to compensate. His stance was wide, and feet laterally rotated – not supporting his structure. His feet were not absorbing the shock of his steps, nor was his pelvis functioning correctly when he walked. His neck jutted forward, unsupported, and his skull was pulled down by tightened suboccipital muscles. This cause his head to literally face up.. and in order to keep his line of vision straight, he had to look down, with his eyes. Notice in the side view where his line of vision is aimed. I noticed the great change in his structure after Session 6. His pelvis was far more balanced, and no longer rotated. His hip muscles were open, allowing his legs and feet to come under his body, creating lift and support. The patient also noticed a significant decrease in pain. And every little bit counts!
Also, LOOK AT HIS HEIGHT DIFFERENCE. After two years of recovery, scar tissue and the compression in his spine took a toll on his height. Structural Integration creates space within the body, allowing everything to function correctly, this includes organs.
So Who can benefit from Structural Integration?
The answer is; Everybody! Young and old alike, people with common problems such as back pain, ankle issues, flat feet, scoliosis, headaches, and just general bad posture. Even those with ADHD, Autism, and other similar problems have shown improvement on a physiological level.
My personal opinion is that all Children should get looked at by a SI practitioner. The earlier the better, don’t wait for issues to get worse. It has been proven, over and over, that the kids who get worked on are just better off, over all. Physically they grow up pain free, more aware of how they use their body. Besides doing better physically, they are mentally more settled, less hyper, and communicate better.
Children are also easier to work on, because their bodies are still so new. Spot sessions, which focus on their particular issue can be all they need.
Example of My Work on a Child
This is an eight year old I worked on, twice. His ankles was severely collapsed in. It was so bad, that his foot had slipped out from under his tibia. His toes were so rotated out with the rest of his foot, that when he walked, the only thing absorbing the shock of his step was his heel. He also had a hard time running, and could not rotate his foot in a circle. At the end of session one, he was able to stand with his weight properly distributed on his whole foot. At the end of session two, he was able to rotate his foot. Two sessions was all this child needed. And now that his base is properly balanced, the rest of his body does not need to compensate for lower issues.
“The psychological effect of foot problems of all kinds is remarkably consistent; a deep, unconscious feeling of insecurity.”