Integrative bodywork is a blending of ortho-bionomy and therapeutic bodywork modalities encouraging balance within the body. Defining what’s happening within the body while receiving integrative bodywork requires a couple of definitions.
- Fascia is a word meaning band or bandage
- Fascial release is referring to modalities used for releasing the fascia.
Briefly, integrative bodywork sessions are reducing discomfort by unwinding the fascial system right down to the cellular level.
In addition, the following principles and concepts help in understanding the underlying effectiveness of integrative bodywork:
- Tensegrity – changing the load in any part of the system is affecting the whole system.
- Move Away from Pain – moving or positioning the body into the place of greatest ease.
- Exaggerate the Pattern – taking the body into any existing patterns.
- Structure Governs Function – physical structures are defining or limiting range of motion.
- Going With and Not Against – easing discomfort and creating space happens by invitation not coercion.
Body Cylinders Concept
Considering the body as a group of connecting cylinders helps in describing how the body functions.
For instance, defining the abdominal cylinder, we would be looking at the space between the respiratory diaphragm and the pelvic floor. To be sure, there are many functioning systems processing, absorbing and eliminating within that cylinder.
In short, integrative bodywork looks at addressing both the walls and inner contents of the abdominal cylinder to ensure optimal tensegrity.
To illustrate, that would mean:
- Checking the joint mobility of the lower spine and pelvis.
- Finding and releasing restrictions within the layers of the abdomen and low back.
- Assessing and optimizing organ motion through palpation.
- Stepping back and looking at how the attaching cylinders above and below (torso and legs) are affecting the abdominal cylinder.
Tensegrity is a term originating in structural engineering. As a concept, tensegrity is describing how a bridge or other structure is distributing forces throughout the whole structure when it’s parts are loaded.
“In a dynamic system of movement, the part moves the whole and the whole moves the part in an unbroken circle.”
Importantly, your body is a tensegrity structure responding and balancing the loads placed on it through the skeletal and fascial systems. For an in depth understanding, read the following Scientific American article – The Architecture of Life.
The fascial system is an interdependent system of strength, support, elasticity, and cushioning. In essence, as a tensegrity structure our bodies are continually adapting to all events by receiving, moving and expending energy. The fascial system is:
- Allowing for the proper movement of the body
- Assisting with proper flow of blood and lymphatic fluid
- Supporting cellular nourishment and detoxification
- Facilitating wound healing by laying down new scar tissue
- Balancing and supporting the bones and organs
- Maintaining proper body temperature
For simplicity, considering the fascial system as a “soft tissue body suit” made up of different sliding and gliding layers is helpful. Indeed, the sliding and gliding layers are a like a flowing spider web of tissues right down to the cellular level. The sliding and gliding layers have differing percentages of two different kinds of fibers depending on their location within the body.
- Collagen fibers are a high density fiber giving fascia its strength and integrity
- Elastin fibers are a stretchy fiber giving fascia its extensibility and resilience
Superficial Layers of the Fascial System
First, the superficial layers are beneath the skin determining body shape and are surrounding the organs, glands, nerves and blood vessels. The superficial layers are functioning as:
- A storage tank for fat and water
- A passageway for lymph, nerve and blood vessels
- A protective padding to cushion and insulate
Deep Layers of the Fascial System
Next, the deep layers are dense fibrous tissues surrounding and penetrating within the body. Naming the deep layers varies depending on where the layer is located. Furthermore, location ends up determining function and composition. And, as noted above, composition is referring to the percentages of collagen and elastin fibers. In short. the deep layers are creating the compartments that hold skeletal muscle as well flowing into the:
- Tendons that join muscle to bone
- Ligaments that join bone to bone
- Joint capsules that surround the joints
- Aponeuroses that are layers of broad flat tendons
- Septa that are the substructure of certain portions of the body like the nose
- Retinacula that are sheets of tissue that hold tendons in place
- Periosteum that is the cover and penetrating deep fascia of your bones
Traditionally deep fascia was considered a relatively avascular tissue, meaning that it didn’t have a lot of blood or lymph flow through it. Recent research has blown away that perspective which makes sense as any tensegrity structure must be adapting and moving.
Visceral Layers of the Fascial System
Finally, the visceral layers are the substructure and wrapping of each organ, holding them in place within the body. In fact, the visceral layer substructure of all organs is like a “skeleton” of fascia holding all the functioning cells together as a unit.
Alleviating Issues with Fascial Release
As has been noted, the fascial system is a completely interwoven “soft tissue body suit”. Thus, unwinding the fascial system with fascial release modalities ends up alleviating all kinds of issues. For example, fascial release eases discomfort by:
- Restoring postural balance
- Reducing swelling and stiffness
- Improving range of motion
- Improving circulation, flexibility and coordination
In addition, fascial release is effective at releasing imbalances created by:
Damaging the soft tissue body suit can happen via tearing, puncturing, surgery, infections or blunt force trauma. No matter the cause, injuring the body ends up triggering an inflammatory response. Inflammation is the beginning of physical healing and the triggering of scar tissue formation. Scar tissue helps in closing up wounds, but it needs to be aligned, mobile and functional. Fascial release helps is reducing any three dimensional sticking points or adhesions from scar tissue within the soft tissue body suit.
Developing adhesions without scarring is like sticking layers of fascia together. First, adhesions end up reducing or preventing proper movement within the affected region. Next, the altering of movement patterns begins impairing function and energy flow. Finally, over time, imbalances begin appearing locally and within other areas of the soft tissue body suit creating compensation patterns.
Fascial adhesions and scars create lines or sheets of tension through the soft tissue body suit. Levels of tension can range up to 2000 lbs per square inch and cause compensations. Compensations are like the squeezing of an internal straight jacket, applying pressure to pain sensitive structures such as muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.
Over time, the body compensates by reorienting itself into a new position against gravity to minimize discomfort. This compensation process happens below your conscious awareness and can set you up for more pain and injuries.
Compensation patterns end up determining posture, shape, and the ability of moving the body. In addition, compensation patterns often become self-sustaining pain loops. To illustrate, think of a compensation pattern like a growing run in a stocking. Ultimately, the original sticking point ends up creating discomfort at locations near, or far away from, the original sticking point.