Manipulation and stretching of the fascia, which is the thin, elastic membrane that envelops every muscle, connects muscles and muscle fibers, and creates bands to form tendons and ligaments, is the primary focus of deep-tissue massage. Rolf-ing, Hellerwork, and Aston-Patterning are the better known methods of this therapy.
Dr. Ida Rolf compared the body to a stack of bricks, each one squarely and firmly on top of one another. If just one of the bricks was out of alignment, the entire structure would be unstable and under duress. When the body is properly aligned, the muscles use little tension in maintaining any given position; however, improper posture puts such stress on the muscles, especially of the back, neck, and legs, that the muscles become over-contracted. After months or years in this condition, the movement of fascial tissues, because they have to hold everything in an out-of-balance state, become shortened and inflexible, and eventually lose their pliability. The muscles underneath become stiff and rigid. Because the neuromuscular system adapts, the body does not know it is in misalignment. Meanwhile, the stress factor depletes energy and interferes with the intrinsic healing abilities of the body.
The belief is that physical or mental trauma can also affect the mobility of the fascia and prevent the muscles from full-range movement. Deep-tissue massage loosens the fascial tissues so that muscles underneath can move more freely. The muscles lengthen, become relaxed, and posture is realigned. A University of Maryland study found that rolfing reduced stress and improved the body's neuromuscular function in the participants.
For more information contact: Rolf Institute, 205 Canyon Boulevard, P.O. 1868, Boulder, Colorado 80302, 303-449-5903. The Body of Knowledge/Hellerwork, 406 Berry Street, Mt. Shasta, California 96067, 916-926-2500. The Aston Training Center, P.O. Box 3568, Incline Village, Nevada 89450, 702-831-8228.
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