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CAPA 2002-06-June

Overcoming Repetitive Motion Injuries the Rossiter Way

Pages: 21-22
Year: 2002
Dr. Ida Rolf Institute

Structural Integration: The Journal of the Rolf Institute – June 2002 – Vol. 30 – Nº 02

Volume: 30

Overcoming Repetitive Motion Injuries the Rossiter Way by Richard Rossiter is an easy-to-read, informational, “how-to” book on relieving pain from cumulative trauma through a series of stretching exercises. Those who read the Rolf Forum regularly are familiar with Richard, a.k.a. RHR and Mr. Fix It. He willing to share on various topics and is never short of opinions or solutions. His personality shines through in the book, but the rough edges have been softened (I presume) by the journalist co-author, Sue MacDonald.

In late Summer of 2001, there was a “Roller Down” email that evoked a great flurry of response and support from the community. As a relatively new Rolfer, I was somewhat taken aback at the potential of the way we (I) serve may not always serve us (me). During the early months of my Rolfing® career, I had experienced shoulder and finger pain, A/O stability issues, and interphalangeal joint rotations. As this new career needs to carry me through the next 20-plus years, this seemed an appropriate time to explore techniques that would cause less wear and tear on the body but not at the cost of the client’s results. As a former chronic pain sufferer, I was not too thrilled at the prospect of reliving the experience. Consequently, Richard’s response caught my attention. It was a short and sweet email-something like “buy my book and it will answer all your questions and solve all your problems.” (Richard, forgive me for misquoting you.)

The Rossiter System promises big results for repetitive motion injuries that are emblazoned on the jacket cover-No More Shots, Drugs, Surgery or Splints. Reading the testimonials on the inside cover from folks who formerly suffered from chronic pain, some of them medical professionals, I was impressed and eager to dig in.

The book is well written, easy to read, and has a logical progression. It begins with an overview of the Rossiter System, how it came to be developed and how it is used. It educates the reader about the structural reasons and cause of chronic pain and why the stretches relieve pain. The supreme role of connective tissue, why it changes, and its impact on the body from shortening and thickening are discussed in detail at the level of a layperson. Medical options (pain killers, pills, splints, cortisone shots, surgery) and why they don’t work also are reviewed. Unabashedly, Richard asks people to own their pain and take responsibility for finding their way home(ostasis). About forty percent of the book consists of detailed, 1-2-3 instructions on the Rossiter stretches. They are accompanied with approximately 80 photographs illustrating proper techniques, as well as a few improper techniques that should be avoided.

Basically, the Rossiter system is a series of techniques and slow, deliberate 10-second stretches to unwind and eliminate restrictions in the connective tissue. The stretches are based on the concepts of Rolfing and massage techniques. The stretches are simple, teachable, and efficient technique, using your foot. Why the foot? There are numerous reasons: the smooth contour of the bottom of the foot evenly distribute; weight; it is a better ergonomic design resulting in safer and easier application of weight for the Coach; it is a less invasive way to accept weight than the arm or hand; and of course, the warmth from the foot aids connective tissue to stretch.

This is a truly collaborative effort, and the team concept applies for all the stretches. The Person in Charge (PIC) is the person in pain who stretches. The Coach applies weight, monitors or crosschecks the technique and stretch in progress for effectiveness and provides encouragement. No special equipment or huge investment is needed just a room, a carpeted floor or mat, a straight-backed chair a clean pair of socks, the book, and the will of the PIC to rid himself of the pain. Initially, the frequency of stretches can be done a few times a week until the pain is alleviated. Then weekly or monthly maintenance can occur. Body awareness is another key component of the Rossiter System for integration of changes. Open-ended questions are asked of the PIC to develop a reference point from which to compare and contrast (tightness, movement, weight, sensation, etc.)

These stretches are literally “eye-popping” and not for the faint-hearted. If you believe that the client should not feel pain (or extreme discomfort) to alleviate their pain or your preference is the subtle, indirect work, this technique is probably not for you. If your client believes that someone else should fix them, no significant participation on their part is required and no pain (discomfort) would be experienced, ditto. It’s in the amount of slowly applied weight (when the eyes pop you know when to stop) AND the stretch that the PIC gets the maximum benefit.

The reason why Rossiter’s stretches have far-reaching effects is locking. The series of stretches are designed to stretch the entire system of connective tissue, not just isolated bits and pieces. After the Coach has applied weight with the foot, the PIC reaches out with the heels, the palm of the hand, and the head. This ensures the connective tissue is stretched to its fullest capacity on one side of the body while executing a specific Rossiter stretch on the other side. With my limited experimentation with the locking stretches and limited Rolfing experience, my best guess of why this stretch is more effective than the stretch without locking is that the layers of fascia are secured taut at the outset. In a Rolfing scenario, a client may be heel lengthening, toe-upping and reaching out of here as directed, but without the locking the fascial layers migrates with the stretch, thus, minimizing effectiveness.

The chapter, “Oh, My Achin’ Back,” has an interesting and different approach to resolving low-back pain: the quads. Rossiter’: theory is that the strongest muscles of the hip are the greatest determinant of pelvis tilt and low back pain. And for Type H (slow, dull, non-acute) pain, only the quads of the leg opposite the side of the back or leg that hurts worse are the culprit and need attention and release. Tight hamstrings are secondarily causal and are a direct response to the tightening and shortening of the quads. The back then tightens because o1 the forward rotation of the pelvis. For Type I (acute) pain, the stretch should be done on the quads on the same side of the body as the pain.

Rolfer lament about the inconsistency o1 naming conventions in the bodywork field Not a problem here. Not only is there a naming convention but a glossary in the book to boot. Terms like Mr. Twister, Windshield Wiper, Tiny Torque and Hole in the Shoulder abound. Although there are only ten stretches for the upper body and back in the book, my understanding is there are now about 120.

I am willing to make a small investment of time and energy to explore this concept. Having experimented with some of the techniques and stretches (but admittedly not the entire series of stretches as recommended) my clients consistently have reported a positive outcome of being looser, freer, and lighter over a much greater area than where the weight is applied (and in comparison to the forearm). They say things like WOW as they walk around and integrate changes. Our mutual goals of tissue release, significant change, and pain reduction are achieved! However, maximum effort is made by the client. I have no problem with exerting the effort when it’s called for, but when it is not, this practice may serve both parties better.

I admire Richard’s creativity, resourcefulness, discipline and fortitude to develop and implement a system which reduces pain and that can be easily taught and utilized with little investment of time or cost. Kudos to him for putting it down in writing and making it available to the masses.

Over 10,000 people a year are doing Rossiter stretches regularly in U.S. factories and offices. Since adopting the Rossister System various employers have reduced workerscompensation costs immensely. One worker’s compensation manager summed it up as, “a proactive approach that empowers people to get out of their pain.” Isn’t this key: empowering people through knowledge transfer.

Like Frank Sinatra, I can see Mr. Second Paradigm singing “I Did It My Way” at the next Rossiter convention. As I’ll be taking his May workshop in Athens, Georgia learning techniques like Hamjam and Rockingham, maybe I’ll be there in the conga line. To get the inside joke, read the book. It’s a minimal investment of $15.95, and most likely you and your client will benefit from it.[:de]Overcoming Repetitive Motion Injuries the Rossiter Way by Richard Rossiter is an easy-to-read, informational, “how-to” book on relieving pain from cumulative trauma through a series of stretching exercises. Those who read the Rolf Forum regularly are familiar with Richard, a.k.a. RHR and Mr. Fix It. He willing to share on various topics and is never short of opinions or solutions. His personality shines through in the book, but the rough edges have been softened (I presume) by the journalist co-author, Sue MacDonald.

 

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