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from the book, Back Fix Bodywork, Section VI Part 2
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by Lou Gross, School Certified Master Postural Integrator
27 years successful experience
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     The method of multiple treatments in the Structural Integration System should not be confused with multiple treatments as usually given in other therapies. Just as the structure of the body is one integrated piece made up of interlocking segments, the series of Bodywork sessions is also one integrated treatment made up of interlocking steps.

     In other, more familiar, "locally oriented" treatments for tension and pain, the usual philosophy is that three treatments should do more than one, and five should do more than three. If you get enough deep heat or massage in the area, the problem will diminish a certain amount and youíll feel better. And if you get twice that amount, you may feel twice as good.

     But in Structural Integration itís different! There is only one treatment, but it takes place over a number of weeks time. It takes a number of hours to properly manipulate all of a personís body. But the manipulations are done a little at a time, in steps, one or two muscle groups at a time. Then, a few days to a week or two is allowed between treatments so the body can incorporate, or integrate, the change into itself before itís given another manipulation.

     The continual downward pull of gravity is also important in this regard. Its constant force pulls the now freed-up muscles and bones toward the best shape that aligns with it. That is, even though we move the body parts much more into alignment during the sessions, between the sessions, gravity itself does even more. It even pulls the parts of the body we havenít yet worked on more into the alignment it wants for optimum body function. We use the force of gravity as a "friendly tool." Structural Integration is a whole body re-organization, not a localized therapy.

     The elimination of pain and tension can only occur, and does occur, when enough of the whole body has received the treatment.

     A person in chronic pain may find it lessen or go away for a few hours after the local area or a related area has been manipulated. But then the pain usually comes back. And this may happen for three, four, five or even more sessions, before it goes away for good. It isnít that weíre trying and trying and trying until it works. Weíre proceeding step by step through an orderly sequence. We have to do the lengthening inch by new inch, down through the deepest layers of musculature in order to remove the pain caused by those very tight muscles and fascia. Itís usually "do-able," but it takes a certain amount of time.

     So long term pain doesnít stay away for the first part of the treatment, even though the body feels looser and more relaxed, and the pain does go away during the actual session. This is because of the way the human body is designed. Lying down, as you are positioned during much of the treatment, is the position least affected by gravity and by the large, but short, deep interconnecting muscles. Sitting is the next least affected. But standing puts them all into play and this is when shortness in other areas forces the painful areas to retighten, "bringing back" the pain.

     It takes a certain number of hours to realign a body so things feel better all over in all positions. And the better the body can be aligned the better everything gets. It isnít the same treatment over and over again. Itís "one big" treatment that takes ten, twenty and in some cases thirty hours to accomplish.

     So, after enough deep interconnecting areas have been worked, the pain thatís been there for month and years due to the mass of bunched-up tissue, finally goes away and usually stays away. From there, additional sessions lengthen the muscles further and align the body properly, strengthening the healthy condition. This also insures that all the shortness contributing to the back problem is removed.

     It is important to understand that we are not treating pain. Pain is there because nerve signals in the muscles or tendons are saying they are much too tight. If the pain is there all the time, we can use the knowledge from this book and say, "Well, something must be holding those muscles and tendons that tight. Because Iíd sure like to release them."

     And, of course, itís the bunch-up and misalignment in the fascia thatís keeping them held. So what we practitioners do is lengthen that tightness, just as stretching would try to lengthen that tightness. Only, as Iíve explained, because the body is such an interconnected network, it takes some knowledge to know how to unravel all the shortness. Once the shortness is adequately lengthened, the pain sensors will stop sending their signals and weíll notice the pain has stopped. As long as thereís no tissue tear or inflammation to activate other pain signals, the structure will be O.K. again.

     As the sessions progress, the body feels and performs better and better. That is what we use to gauge the improving health that the treatment provides.

     But this experience is not immediately recognizable by a lot of people who have had long term back pain.

     Their emotional and sensory experiences have become dominated by their chronic condition. They have become, in large part, predominantly focused on whether there is pain or no pain. Embedded within the physical tightnesses of the fascia are stored emotional energies of frustration, hopelessness, resentfulness and even confusion. Part of their chronic shortness was due to tightening up against the pain. I have found that for people in this situation, special verbal "release" processes help them remove this emotional energy out of their bodies.

     The Bodywork alone will break-up and release a lot of it all by itself. But adding these other techniques, such as used in Reichian and "Netherton" therapies, can help the person "get on top of" their condition sooner. What often happens for some of these folks, is that even though their general condition has gotten better, a small sensation, or repeat effect, reactivates the emotional stress. So these release techniques help the person remove the old fear components out of the tissue.

     After the pain has been gone for a while, and their bodies have released these fears, the people seem better able to grasp the lengthening and aligning concept of the treatment. And very importantly, they are more agreeable to doing self-help stretches to create that length on their own.

     The analogy Iíve used is to say that "red" is pain, "green" is no pain, and "yellow" is shortness that does not hurt now, but that eventually leads to pain if it isnít corrected. I explain that we develop routine tension, and therefore routine stretching will bring their bodies out of yellow and back into the longer lengths of green. It will keep them from getting into the red, just as daily brushing and flossing keeps away gum disease.

     The improvement in attitude that allows people to "get behind" a stretching program is a direct result of the removal of the pain and the emotional negativity that got built up about the struggles with the pain, (and with other areas of the personís life). At this level of improvement, their bodies do more, better, they stretch better, and they feel better. So they have a new confidence that their bodies do stay more pain free, and that they have control over removing any transient minor pain that may come up.

     It is not necessary in Structural Integration to repeatedly loosen the local painful area, except as an interim massage treatment or to correct short term repeated tightening created between sessions. In fact, repeatedly loosening an area that hurts without loosening the other areas contributing to that hurt, will often make the hurt worsen. The other, hardened muscles and fascia will have an easier time of pulling the softer, worked areas out of alignment and into tension and pain.

     A typical example of this is when people with chronic pain in their shoulders and neck get repeated massages for their necks and shoulders but no Bodywork for their arms, legs, abdomen, chest and pelvis, in other words the rest of the body thatís supposed to support the shoulders upright. The shoulder and neck pain keeps coming back. A chronically painful back is one part of a chronically tight entire body. And the fact that thousands of people with chronic pain have had it completely removed after receiving the 10-20 sessions of the system has repeatedly testified to the correctness of the facts on which the system is based.

     So Structural Integration is ONE treatment that extends out over several weeks. And somewhere toward the end of the treatment, most peopleís pain goes away for good because the reasons for that pain, imbedded deeply and pervasively, have finally been removed.

     In addition, the integrating process continues within the body for a year or two after the basic treatment has been completed, and additional "integrating" sessions help move it along during that time.




     The goal of the system is to align the structure of the body so itís in balance with gravity. As we do this, hardened tension, shortened muscles and emotional blocks that have accumulated in that structure are released in the process. This makes the bodyís tissue softer, looser and then longer, as the muscles are lengthened to the proper size.

     So, in order to align the body, the cause of the pain, the cause of the misalignment, must be removed. Then, once the structure is aligned, the bodyís balance with gravity will work to prevent tightness from reoccurring. Gravity, as a continuous strong and steady force, actually helps to maintain body alignment, once the body has been put there. It works in the same way as when it helps the body move toward alignment even between the first few sessions. Proper body alignment also helps to keep the fascia soft and malleable, simply because thereís no need for it to tighten up against the pull of gravity. Even a "mostly" aligned body will function this way.

     A malleable, flexible, balanced body creates the same feeling in the mind. There are messages sent from the physical experience into the brain that "We are supported, we are balanced, we are loose, we are flexible." The soft fluidity of the fascia in the muscles also "cushions" our interface to the world. We arenít always stuck in making effort with our big extrinsic muscles. And we arenít hard and "wound up" in them either. This means that tense emotional upsets will "come and go" in the physical muscle system. They donít stay there.

     After the initial processing that produces a much better alignment in the body, there will be routine "bunch-up." But now, even when a person tightens up from athletics or other intense physical behavior, or from emotional holding, it takes just a few hours of Bodywork to correct it in a lot less time than the original bunch-up required.

     Stretching it back out is also much easier, and more effective. (Even my Olympic athlete clients said so.) Since our structural form is "set" by the shape of the fascia, and not by the variable lengths of the muscle fibers, the change in its consistency allows the muscles to give way easier and further.

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