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Natural Therapies - Rolfing

Balancing act

Gillian Duffin is an advanced certified Rolfer and cranio sacral therapist working with all kinds of pains and injuries, specialising in head injuries and how they affect our general health, mind and body. Her practice is in Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin where she sees clients for every kind of ailment and trauma

Catherine* limped into my office with hip and lower back issues that she had carried for many years. She was searching for an alternative to surgery. She was in her early 50s and as her lower back pain got progressively worse she found her neck was affected and she was getting more frequent headaches.

I observed her movement, how she favoured leaning into and sitting on the weak hip and how different her two legs were. We did a walking assessment to see her posture and movement as I took her history of knocks and falls. It is remarkable how often we re-injure the same area and how this always affects the stability of the whole body.

I was looking for support in her lower legs to give her back strength. The connection of the legs to the lower back is often overlooked even though on a practical level, when we go into a bar and the table wobbles we instantly check the legs for imbalance.

I pointed out how her right knee was scarred and how her leg held a twist in it that showed up in less supportive arches in her right foot. She recounted an incident as a child where she fell and injured that knee and we made the connection of that being her ‘weak’ side.

Once I had taken a full history and visual assessment of how her structure was functioning, I started to release and reorganise the connective tissue of her hips and knees, working across the joints to generate more balance and freedom in the tissue. It is fascinating how different our bodies can feel side to side and front to back. Clients often feel the site of an old injury as more dense and heavy until it is released. Connective tissue has a memory and holds that memory of an injury (mental, emotional or physical) until the time it is released.

I worked the weak side first giving extra attention to her damaged knee and mid-session I asked her to stand and ‘test drive’ the changes. Instantly she felt the leg more ‘under her’ and the foot on that side more supportive and ‘light’. I then used the rest of the session to balance the two legs with deep releases of the connective tissue and a small education piece on how to sit in a more balanced and supportive way for her overall posture.

In the next session the back and hip pain had lowered by 70%, so I focused on deep tissue re-education of her arches and lower leg generating a more supportive base. Our feet should feel like wide open paws on the ground, giving us endless options to respond to the many demands of life as we change direction with every move. Tight rigid or uncomfortable feet show in the whole structure and posture of a person.

We spoke about how a small sprain in your ankle can affect you all the way to the top of your head as the body brilliantly compensates for the lack of support. We then spent time retraining how she walks. Our walk is our daily exercise and if you look at how people move you will be fascinated by how unique movement actually is. Like our thumbprint we show our own history, each quirk a tale of an old injury or insult. Posture can be greatly affected by negative comments as a child which can literally shape us as adults. If we can walk well in an easy and aware way, I believe we can avoid many pains and aches that we associate with ageing.

With new awareness of how to move and sit and more freedom given directly to the support system in her legs Catherine’s back was feeling great. Not only this, she found she was standing up for herself more at work. We spoke about the power of ‘putting your foot down’ and such phrases we use in common culture.

Your body is not just a mechanical piece of equipment that you can drop off to the shop to get fixed. There is meaning and history in our bodies. We feel and remember everything in every cell and when you release the structure, the function of each person and their unique expression really can change.

Tell me about Rolfing Structural Integration

Rolfing is a hands-on deep tissue manipulation that works on releasing postural patterns that result from injury, repetitive strain, poor posture and emotional blockages. Rolfing brings the body back into its natural alignment with gravity, balancing your structure to create ease, health and vitality. It was developed in the 1950s by Dr Ida P. Rolf who had studied fascia/connective tissue. Rolfing Structural Integration is a profound therapy undertaken by certified practitioners and aimed at correcting the cause of the problem.

Contact Gillian

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* Not her real name

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