Moving Easily into the Golden Years with Structural Integration
The golden years can bring many wonderful things: career maturity and success; deep, connected relationships with family and friends; an understanding of life that younger people just can’t match. But aging gracefully can be a bit tougher physically. Fatigue; achy joints; stiff, tight muscles, fascia and connective tissues; and balance, coordination and endurance problems have millions of people seeking help restoring their more youthful bodies.
Aging and Limitations
According to physical therapist Adriaan Louw, PhD, author of Therapeutic Neuroscience Education, chronic pain—often an unfortunate side effect of aging—can also lead to appetite changes, weight gain, nerve sensitivity, sleep disturbance, posture issues, fatigue and depression.
A 2015 study in the American Journal of Neuroradiology reveals that every decade of age is accompanied by a greater rate of bulge and deterioration in the spinal discs:
- 30% of 20-year-olds
- 60% of 50-year-olds
- 84% of 80-year-olds
- 37% of 20-year-olds
- 80% of 50-year-olds
- 96% of 80-year-olds
When the body starts experiencing many of the issues listed above, the brain kicks into overdrive to protect the body from further injury. The nervous system becomes heightened and sensitized, causing tissues throughout the body to over-contract. This compensation process can lead to many other physical issues.
Changing the Story of Pain
Structural Integration offers people who are looking to stay vibrant, dynamic and healthy an opportunity not only to regain some of the strength, flexibility, balance and coordination of their younger years, but also to help change the story of pain that their brain has created.
According to Drs. David Butler and Lorimer Moseley, authors of Explain Pain Supercharged, there are three keys to decreasing and changing the story of pain and the compensation patterns people tend to experience with age: 1) education; 2) graded exposure—moving in ways the brain and body feel are safe; 3) awareness and exploration—using various textures, pressures and touch to change the brain and connective tissues.
The purpose of Structural Integration is not just to free or manipulate the connective tissues, but also to help people become more aware of, connected to and in control of every aspect of their body. In order for the body to be as healthy and functional as possible, all its parts need to work together effortlessly. Injury, hobbies, illness and stress can cause the body to compensate and fight itself, and this happens to a greater degree as we age.
Focus on Connective Tissues
Today there are many amazing therapies and tools for treating specific issues or areas of the body, but we often fail to focus on the body working together as a whole. Stress, injury and age can actually cause the brain to change the messages it sends to connective tissues. So connecting—or reconnecting—the nervous system with the connective tissues is key to restoring youthful movement.
Structural Integration accomplishes this task in a very effective way. SI practitioners use their hands, fingers and elbows in a completely pain-free way, working with a client’s connective tissues, skin, muscles and fascia to change the nervous system. This safe, comfortable method of connective tissue manipulation allows the brain to adjust the tension within the connective tissue. Once the nervous system begins to calm down, entering a state of more balanced tension, the client has an opportunity to improve his or her movement and posture—which brings us to the second reason Structural Integration can be profoundly helpful.
As a result of chronic holding patterns from pain, a fear of pain and age-related limitations, or a job or hobby, our aging body begins to move in ways that are often less than ideal, changing our posture and making it hard for us to move easily and effortlessly. With the tension within the client’s connective tissues now eased, the practitioner teaches him or her how to move more effectively and efficiently. Therefore, each of the 10 SI sessions includes individualized movement education. The series of movements build upon themselves every week, so with every session the client is moving better and more easily than the week before.
Self Care through SI
The third piece of SI, which is one of its most important aspects, is the education in self-care that comes with this life-changing process. The SI practitioner’s goal is to empower and equip clients with simple yet highly effective tools and techniques so they can help themselves the moment they experience pain or discomfort.
As they move through each of the 10 sessions, the practitioner pairs different self-care techniques for each region of the body. This enables the clients to address issues as they happen instead of having to rely on the therapist to treat them. The goal is to educate and equip clients to help themselves as much as possible.
This single aspect of SI can be life changing. It can save an incredible amount of time and money, as clients are now empowered to do more for themselves. They can begin to cut the apron strings of dependency that come from thinking that the only way to feel and move better is to have someone else fix them.
At the end of the 10-session process, clients have gained a phenomenal education about their body, movement and self-care, which allows them to truly be empowered, living the quality of life they want as they move into and through their golden years.
Kevin Lucas, a licensed massage therapist and board certified Structural Integrator, specializes in working with people who have severe conditions such as scoliosis, Parkinson’s, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease and chronic pain, as well as with athletes at all levels. He is the founder of Neuro Movement Integration and the creator of Relief Through Rolfing and has a working collaborative at Pilates Core Training in Pensacola. For more information, call 509-844-4742 or visit NeuroMovementIntegration.com.