Question: Can Structural Integration, (Rolfing) help alleviate or minimize the aches and pains that accompany the normal process of aging?
Answer: One of the things we have to look at are the concepts that our society has formed around aging, and how those expectations have become embedded in an individual’s consciousness. People will often experience certain declines or changes in their bodies and certain changes in the way they stand and walk, and they assume, “Well, that’s aging and there is nothing you can do about it.” The same goes for certain patterns of pain.
So, we have to question whether or not those assumptions are well founded and what can be done that doesn’t take people down the well-worn path of cutting, drugging and tummy tucking. Many people assume that this approach of artificially maintaining or restoring our youthful appearance is the norm. One on my clients, Fred, was clearly not buying into society’s silliness around aging. Fred, a church architect, was 97 years old when he first came to see me, and he was going into his office six days a week. Fred informed me that when he turned 70, he decided it was time to get into shape; so he started going to the gym three nights a week and at 97 he was still going to the gym.
One of the concerns for a vast number of older people is their loss of height. Many of them feel that it is just something that comes with aging and that there is nothing they can do about it. One of the benefits for everyone, not just older individuals, who use structural integration, Rolfing, is that they invariably gain height. This happens for a couple of reasons. One is that over the years, some people will develop a posture pattern of their shoulders rounding and their head going forward. Second, certain body segments become more and more compressed or shortened, due to the facial wrappings of the muscles in those areas shrinking and becoming tighter. So overall, they will have lost height and will look shorter.
If a person develops rotational patterns where one segment of the body in relationship to another rotates, it can diminish his or her measurable height.
I have one Structural Integration colleague who at the intake session with a new patient, will have him or her stand up against a wall. She will measure the height of this person and draw on the wall a line that is even with the top of their head. Next to the line she writes out the person’s initials and dates the mark. At the tenth session she will take the measurement again to show how much height the person has gained. Nine times out of ten, there will be an increase in measurable height. I have seen in my own practice where there is as much of a gain as a full one-and-three-quarters inches, although one-half inch increases are more common.
So, when it comes to assumptions about aging and the effects it has on the physical body, there are positive alternatives that certainly can be addressed through natural and holistic means.