Is Osteoarthritis Inevitable?
Almost everyone assumes that osteoarthritis is an inevitable feature of aging. Dr. Ida P. Rolf was a biochemist and founded The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. She challenged the assumption that degeneration of our joints is inevitable. Dr. Rolf provided a paradigm shift in maintaining healthy joint function throughout our lives.
What is Osteoarthritis?
When osteoarthritis (OA)) occurs, the articular cartilage (hyaline cartilage) within the joint becomes worn and breaks down. Symptoms of OA include swelling, stiffness, pain, and over time, loss of function. It is commonly believed that OA is due to aging or overuse.
Let’s look at healthy biomechanics. The motion of each joint has an optimal arch or range of movement. Each joint is designed to flex or extend through a range of movement. If the muscle and connective tissues (myofascia) tensions are balanced, the joint has the freedom needed to do its job.
Any shortening in the myofascial span can inhibit and distort the movement within the joint, and change the axis of movement. Additionally, shortening in the soft tissue creates excessive compression through the joint. These changes distort the movement within the joint (pathomechanics.) Over time, the joint becomes worn and develops OA.
Automobiles provide an example of how this wear occurs. If your car’s front end is out of alignment, the tire’s axis of rotation is distorted. When we look at the tires, we can see how the wear is uneven.
Does Rolfing Improve Joint Function?
Dr. Rolf discovered that if you could balance the tensions within the myofascial network, you could improve the function within the joints. Rolfing balances the tension in the myofascial network. In doing so, the joint is given the opportunity to move in the way it was meant to. Over time, when the biomechanics are balanced, the cartilage within the joint can heal.
A Central Vertical Axis
The body is composed of many segments and joints. The organization of the structure directly impacts its function. If the head is too far forward, or one hip is elevated, the body must work extra hard to keep the body upright and moving.
Try this experiment – Hold a two-pound object away from your body for one minute. Afterward, note the fatigue you feel. Now hold the same object close to your body and to your body’s central axis for one minute. Note how much easier it is to support the weight close to the body’s midline.
Rolfing Restores Function
Dr. Rolf recognized that for the body to function well, the structure needs to be organized around a central vertical axis, within the field of gravity. As Rolfing balances the tensions in the myofascia around each joint, it also balances the tensions within the whole structure and helps the body to organize the structure around a vertical axis.
Rolfing aligns and decompresses the joint surfaces, minimizing wear and tear. Rolfing significantly slows down the aging of the bones and soft tissue by instilling healthy movement patterns and giving the body a natural lift within the gravity field.