From the tips of your toes to the top of your head, everything is affected by your posture. The way you walk will determine how your back feels. Stand in front of a mirror and take a good look. Does your head tilt to one side? Is one shoulder higher than the other? And how about your rib cage–is one side folding into your hip?

The body’s posture and alignment affects function. Videotape yourself walking and see if your feet roll out. More than likely, that deteriorating disk in your lower back is a direct result of walking like a duck! Remember the feet are the bottom line of support for the entire body.

The true nature of the human body is to be aligned and in perfect balance. But between our lack of body awareness, poor mechanics and bad habits, we become Leaning Towers of Pisa.

We can change our structure. The body is stabilized by a system of interconnected webbing called myofascial or connective tissue. This tissue has elastic properties and is the glue-like substance that holds the muscles, bones, tendons and organs in place. The beauty of this system is that it holds tight like a balloon filled to capacity, but softens when it is manipulated, causing the structure to realign.

Rolfing, our current topic, is a system that brings about structural changes. The rolfer will open up layers of bound-up tissue that allow the body to reorganize back into balance. Michael Lucas, a certified rolfer and associate of the Columbus Polarity

Center, has offered his insight into the benefits of rolfing. Let’s follow his case studies demonstrating a correlation between decrease in pain and rolfing:

In 1996, Time magazine reported that lower back pain affects one out of every seven people and results in billions of dollars in lost wages yearly. Eighty percent of patients who seek help for their lower back pain or chronic neck and shoulder problems are idiopathic, or exhibit no known pathological cause, such as a disk injury or joint disease.

The cause in these cases is stress or soft tissue injuries. The same article reported that these chronic health problems fail to find relief in mainstream medicine.

The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy reported in 1997 that sustained pain relief from chronic lower back problems improves with integrative treatments that go beyond traditional medicine or physical therapy. As a result, there is a growing interest in holistic techniques, soft tissue manipulation and movement awareness for lower back dysfunction.In a case study involving a 19-year-old female suffering with chronic lower back pain for two years, the patient was found to have a sacroiliac joint dysfunction, involving a forward tilt of her left pelvic bone. She received treatments from a chiropractor and massage and exercise therapists. These therapists provided only temporary relief.

John Cottingham, a physical therapist and certified advanced rolfer, worked with the patient using stretches, soft tissue manipulation and movement awareness techniques. By the third session with just soft tissue manipulation, only temporary relief was found. During the fourth and fifth sessions, movement patterns were addressed. This corrected the alignment of her pelvis, which improved her awareness of what was contributing to the lower back problems. The patient’s pain disappeared during the sixth and final session. She remained symptom-free after a six-month follow-up.

The key to success was the combination of soft tissue manipulation and movement awareness re-education. This process sustained an improvement in the patient’s lower back, especially after she changed her basic movement patterns.

Repetitive motion injuries, or RMI, involve damage to nerves and tendons caused by irritation, compression and restricted blood flow. No single event is the cause of RMI; it is an accumulation of minor, unnoticed stresses. For instance, systems of carpel tunnel syndrome, the most familiar example of RMI, will appear before the syndrome is present. Often early intervention prevents developing crippling, costly injuries.

The Associated Press reported that the world’s largest hearing aid manufacturer, Starkey Laboratories, decreased its workers compensation costs for repetitive motion injuries by 88 percent with the help of a certified rolfer over a four-year period. This also lowered the company’s insurance rates and improved employee productivity.

By working with employees to make them aware of symptoms, such as numbness, burning sensations or tingling, more serious conditions can be prevented. At Starkey,

employees were shown simple exercises with gentle stretches that restore circulation.

Rolfing bodywork and the Starkey rolfer’s analysis of ergonomic functioning at work improved the employees’ overall well-being and ability to cope with RMI difficulties.

Reading Michael Lucas’ examples of rolfing’s success, one wonders what benefit there could be in encouraging preventative bodywork instead of waiting until there is severe pain. Where are you holding your aches and pain?

May the longtime sun shine upon you.