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  • William E. Leigh III

Comparison of Acupuncture and Structural Integration.

Updated: Mar 23, 2019

The practice of acupuncture is over 2000 years old and is found in many systems of traditional medicine. Structural Integration was developed by Dr. Ida Rolf in the 1950's and 60's . Both acupuncture and and Structural Integration are holistic alternative medicine modalities. They are both extremely popular and practitioners can be found throughout the world. Both of these modalities are being presently being researched researched with modern methods. The findings show that both modalities may share many methods of action.

Acupuncture in North America is studied along with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Traditional Chinese Medicine has a history of being practiced for over 3000 years. TCM incorporates herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage and other modalities. This traditional system of medicine is based on the observation of functioning physiology and predates our modern scientific systems of understanding. TCM regards the human physiology as a living, holistic, and interdependent system. TCM practitioners strive to create balance within the physiology which results in eliminating disease and achieving optimal health.

Structural Integration (SI) is a system of bodywork or massage that focuses on the fascia or connective tissue. Fascia is a dynamic network of connective tissue that is found throughout the physiology and keeps each individual part of your body organized in space. Fascia gives the physiology structure from the skin down to down to the cellular level. It surrounds the body underneath the skin and wraps each bone, muscle, organ, blood vessel, nerve and cell. This supportive network defines the physical shape of the individual. SI aims to remodel the fascia and realign the shape of the physiology in relation to gravity. SI practitioners believe that when the physiology is more effectively aligned for support, physical motion becomes easier and overall vitality is increased.

Fascia is a malleable substance, similar to dense modeling clay. Fascia is primarily formed with many layers of connective tissue. The SI practitioner applies slow deep pressure to the body, like a massage, but their focus is not on the muscles but on the layers of fascia surrounding the musculature and forming the shape of the body. The SI practitioner works systematically, from the superficial layers to deep within the musculature. They start by reorganizing the functioning of the lungs, then systematically work through the muscular system with the purpose of realigning the entire physiology with gravity. Dr. Ida Rolf, developed a specific ten session series to accomplish this aim. When complete, the patient has increased sense of balance with significant improvement of personal vitality.

Chinese medicine practitioners believe that we are living energy. They called this living energy qi. They do not think of qi as a specific single substance, but many relationships of energy and physiology. There is the zhong qi of creating nutritive blood and there is the wei qi of our natural defense against disease. Every organ in the body is described as having its own qi. Furthermore, qi is described as a fluid energy that provides communication and connects the physiology.

It is this communication and connection network that brings structural integration and acupuncture together. Modern research is finding that acupuncture has significant effects upon the fascia tissue. Our nervous system exists throughout the fascia network, and this peripheral sensory network constantly provides information to the central nervous system (CNS) about our physical shape in time and space. Acupuncture points are often found to correlate with discernible structures of fascia. When thin filiform needles are inserted and manipulated into these structures, they interact with the fascia by physically pulling the fibers. Physically stimulating the fascia increases the conscious and subconscious communication between the acupuncture point and the CNS. From a Chinese medicine perspective, this stimulates the qi at the local point and causes a predictable chain reaction throughout the physiology. In this way, the qi, vital energy, and subconscious awareness is stimulated to re-balance the physiology and eliminate disease.

Both TCM and SI focus on developing holistic balance. SI physically remodels the shape of the fascia in an effort to physically re-balance the body. Acupuncture stimulates the energetic and biological functions within the fascia system. Both are holistic modalities that aim to increase health without damaging the system.

VIDEO: Introduction to Structural Medicine

VIDEO: Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine

(The fire technique demonstrated at the end of this video is not practiced in America.)

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