Imagine a body in perfect alignment, every muscle, bone, organ, ligament and connective tissue working in concert just as they were designed to. A body truly in balance.

That is the goal of structural integration, to restore balance, proper posture and produce body movements that are smooth and pain-free. Yet few of us enjoy such freedom. Each day we suffer a number of stressors that affect our movement: improperly designed seating, hunching over computer screens, tilting our necks to answer phones...the list is endless. Perhaps an injury or illness in the past has put further strain on the body. These negative activities and the pains and strains they cause are ingrained in “muscle memory” and can become habitual behaviour. We literally “forget” what a body in balance feels like.

Structural integration is quite different from traditional massage therapy as it focuses on treating fascia, the body’s connective tissue. (Please see Myofascial Release for more specific information about this technique.) Through a series of soft tissue manipulations targeting the body’s entire system of fascia/connective tissue, a trained structural integrator restores freedom of movement by treating the whole body as a complex, interconnected system not a series of individual localized problems. Structural integration takes a “big picture” view of your body and posture, what’s working and what isn’t, and assists in restoring everything back into proper alignment. By studying your posture, the therapist may discover that your chronic shoulder problem really isn’t a shoulder problem at all. Perhaps an old knee injury is putting pressure on the body’s web of fascia causing pain to be reflected in the shoulder. One area of the body tries to compensate for damage elsewhere. In this case, treating the shoulder will never solve the problem as it is simply a symptom of a more extensive problem elsewhere.

Each structural integration session begins with a postural analysis to identify problem areas. As some techniques are performed seated or standing, the client wears stretchy shorts, a bathing suit or underwear (depending upon the client’s comfort) throughout the treatments. No lotions or oils are applied to the body. Structural integration is usually offered as a course of 12 treatments with each session targeting specific areas of the body and building on the work completed in previous appointments. However, it can also be offered as individual sessions, with the therapist focusing on the areas that they feel will be most beneficial for your needs. Each treatment plan is unique because each patient is unique.

Structural integration was originally developed by Ida Rolf in the 1920s and the technique was called Rolfing. Today, the core concepts of structural integration are practiced and marketed under a variety of names. Rolfing, Neuromuscular Integration and Structural Alignment (NISA) and Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI) are just some of the major disciplines taught to healthcare practitioners who earn certification from each respective school. These names are copyrighted and can only be used by certified graduates of the respective programs. At Bellesmere, our SI therapists are certified graduates of Kinesis Myofascial Integration (KMI), a school developed and run by Thomas Myers, who trained with Ida Rolf and taught anatomy at the Rolf Institute for many years.