Most of the pain problems we see in adults are the result of postural misalignments they have had since childhood or adolescence. These misalignments generally have little to do with bones; they are mostly soft-tissue problems. If a tent is not standing straight, we don’t adjust the tent pole, we adjust the ropes that are holding the tent pole in place. Bones go where muscles put them, and bones stay where muscles keep them.
A line can be drawn, along the line of gravity, through the nose, the sternum (breastbone), the navel, the pubic symphysis (the middle of the pubic bone), and ending at a point halfway between the feet in a natural and comfortable standing position. At least, that’s the course the line will follow on a well-balanced body. A similar line can be drawn along the side of the body that will pass through the ear, the shoulder joint, the hip joint and just in front of the ankle. One easy way to check these lines on a person is with a plumb line — a string with a weight at the end.
There are other signs of balance: the shoulders and shoulderblades should be level, and the inner edge of each shoulderblade should be the same distance from the center of the spine as the other. The hips and the buttocks should be level, and the pelvis should be tilted forward no more than 10 degrees. The shoulders should not be rotated inward. The kneecaps and the feet should point forward. In walking the legs should swing freely forward without twisting to one side or the other, and the arms should swing freely in inverse coordination with the legs.
These are not arbitrary rules. This is a description of a body that is balanced and well-aligned in relation to gravity; that is, a body that is able to use gravity to remain upright and move freely, rather than constantly fighting it. A body that is out of balance will be using a great deal of energy fighting gravity, and, in the end, gravity wins. In addition, the tissues that are pulling and holding the body out of alignment, and those enlisted in the constant struggle against gravity, are in a state of distress that grows more pronounced and more refractory over time.
There are a variety of approaches to postural massage therapy. The first and simplest categorization would be into teaching approaches, such as Alexander and Feldenkrais, and manual approaches, such as Rolfing, Hellerwork, neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, and others. Our opinion, based on experience, is that they are mutually supportive rather than mutually exclusive. The Alexander Technique, for example, is an excellent learning experience that re-educates the body in its use of gravity; but our experience is that it does not, by itself, resolve well-established soft-tissue problems.
Our approach to postural massage therapy is just that: our own depending on the therapist you meet-techniques are synthesized from all of our learning,
Postural massage therapy is focused on the whole body, and the responses of the whole body to all of the work must be observed. Sessions should be no more frequent than twice a week (to give the tissues time to respond to the work), and no less frequent than once every two weeks (to keep from re-establishing old patterns).
Actual treatment procedures employ a synthesis of manual techniques. The order of work has to do largely with two interconnected elements: a) working from superficial to deeper structures, and b) developing increasing trust on the part of the client at both the conscious (intellectual and emotional) and unconscious (emotional and physical) levels.
The ultimate objective is to work on the whole body, releasing fascia and muscle constriction in all areas, so that, rather than my forcing the body into some arbitrary postural standard, the body is set free to find a relaxed, comfortable, efficient and gravity-friendly posture in all its activities.