Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration – The Journal of the Ida Rolf Institute – Summer 2001 – Vol 29 – Nº 03

Volume: 29

Among the important concepts that Dr. Ida Rolf gave us is: looking for the solution of a body problem far removed from where the problem itself appears.

This concept is shared by Ostheopathic schools and by other global techniques, like the Meziere’s Technique.

We shouldn’t underestimate the range of this assumption, which can lead us to work safely both with clients who present a chronic problem, and also with clients who have an acute problem. In this second case we must not forget that medical diagnosis and treatment may be needed.

Our work is based on the principle that tensions spread out through the body. When some muscles are missing their function, other muscles have to compensate and work harder than they should.

We could apply the concept of hyper- and hypomobility, so as to have clearer in our minds how the body compensates.

For instance, when a client is affected by a scapulo-humeral periarthritis, we find some phasic muscles that work too much (Pectoralis, Brachialis…); they are hypermobile. They do part of the job that should be accomplished by muscles performing a more tonic movement, like Serratus Anterior, that, on the contrary, works too little; it is hypomobile. In this way, step by step, the Humerus will be taken close to the Acromion, so that ligaments and articular surfaces will be under strain and then damaged.

As we all know, phasic muscles should be used for a few seconds, when a strong and quick action is needed. If they are used continually, as a “routine”, they become fibrotic and the joints that they cross lose their physiological space. Lengthening those muscles and giving back elasticity isn’t enough to solve the problem at its roots.

It is fundamental that all the movement is organized in a more functional way.

The spine, as a whole, follows the same principle. It has very mobile parts, like the cervical and lumbar areas; other parts are less mobile, because of their connection to another bony segment: the thoracic area is connected to the ribs, and the Sacrum and Coccyx are embedded in the Innominatum bones.

When those parts that already have a limited movement become even more rigid, an area of hypomobility is induced. That happens, for instance, if the ribcage loses full range for breathing because of emotional factors. So to maintain the needed range of movement, the parts where motion is already easy will move even more. We will find a hypermobile area somewhere else, where overworking muscles shorten and cause compression.

A very high percentage of problems in the lumbar area are caused by some stiffness in the dorsal area and/or by hamstring shortness.

The entire spine is efficient when every section accomplishes the movement that is allotted to it. Only in this way does it work homogeneously and is movement fluid.

In the hypermobile areas a focused strain can induce pain. The hypomobile segments are silent, and apparently don’t give any trouble.

“Fixing the lesion” isn’t enough; the most important goal is restoring movement in the rigid, blocked segments.

It happens that some clients come back very often with the same problem. Let’s investigate the origin of the problem remote from where it appears, as Dr. Ida Rolf taught us.

For instance, if the dorsal spine is in pain, let’s check if the anterior part is mobile and keeps its physiological length. For knee problems, we should check how feet and back behave, and so on.

Of course, our task is to give back space and elasticity to the compressed areas, but not as a first goal; if we do that, in many cases the existent problems can get worse.

These remarks can be very helpful when clients with serious structural diseases, for example a bulging or herniated disc, come to our offices. These people very often present, just close to the herniation, muscles that are stiff as steel bars. That is both the result of spasms due to the inflammation of the involved nerve, and also a clever way for the body to protect itself.

We should never underestimate the ability of our bodies for self-protection. Inhibiting movement, in such a situation, is a really creative solution that can avoid more serious damage of the nerve.

In these cases, during the Rolfing process it is much safer to locate the hypomobile areas and work there first. Only when movement is re-estabished there, and is no longer dominated by the suffering segments, is it alright to continue with the recipe.

Osteopaths who don’t like for their clients to be under too many medications usually suggest, as a best strategy in acute pain situations, blocking movement for a few days, by using a rigid belt for lumbar pain (that can extend to the legs); or a neck brace for cervical pain (that can extend to the arms). Only when the situation is improved do they proceed with a treatment.

This kind of rigid support should be worn only for a short time and not as a rule, otherwise fine movement is lost – just the opposite of what we want to achieve with our work.

When the client changes his movement pattern, being conscious that a misuse of a painless area is also involved, and is an origin of his problems, relapses will be drastically reduced.

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