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  • Writer's pictureAlex W

What to expect from a Structural Integration Session

Are you stuck in a pattern of stiffness, tight muscles and misalignment? Structural Integration (SI) might be the answer you're seeking. Many people think that SI is a form of Massage, but it is actually quite different.  This blog will give you a clear picture of what to expect during an SI session. We'll explore the intake process, bodywork techniques, important recovery steps, and how it can impact your overall well-being.


Intake

The first phases of a SI session can happen before you even steps into a treatment space. A health intake form is often used to get an understanding of your prior injuries, condition, activities, profession, and lifestyle. All of these elements greatly influence how you experience the world through your body, and how your body adapts to your world. For instance, long times in a seated position at work or in the car can impact the hips, back, and neck.


A goal setting process can help you and the therapist get aligned on desired outcomes and expectations. This can also be where discussion about limitations and resources can come into play.


SI practitioners often look at your standing posture, walking, breathing, and various other movement assessments. This can include moving your arms, neck, legs, back, and other body parts with specific motions. Both static (not moving) and dynamic (moving) body reading can reveal imbalances, restrictions, and contributing factors influencing your health and well being. Breathing and walking may seem like movements that may not immediately warrant study. Yet, when you consider we breathe over 20,000 times per day and many walk over 10,000 steps per day, supporting these highly repeated patterns can provide you with significant relief.


Structural Integration Techniques Explained

The application of SI often requires your skin to be directly touched by the practitioner. You can wear loose fitting t-shirts and shorts, or just your underwear in a session so the practitioner can work with and through your skin. Practitioners will use their fingers, knuckles, palms, forearms, and elbows in their techniques. Pressure can be applied: directly into the skin and body (perpendicular), along with the skin and at angle to the body, and even pulling the skin away from the body (think of cupping). Practitioners regularly move specific body parts and ask you to move their own body during treatment. This may look like the your head moving while the practitioner works on your neck, or the practitioner bending your knee to work on your calf. Technique, area of the body, and quality of your tissue influences the speed or rate of treatment. For instance, work done in the mouth and nose (yes occasionally, work is done in the mouth and nose) is done much slower than many other places. The pressure of touch can be very gentle and sometimes very deep, depending on the targeted tissue, intention, and capacity of your system. Your feedback during the session is extremely important and often influences treatment.


Experience

The specific touch that SI provides can produce significant sensation and sometimes an awareness of no sensation or numbness. Pain can be relieved, mobility and range of motion can be increased, tension can be released, and tissues can be engaged. Emotions and memories, such as injuries, beliefs, values, and recollections, can even come up in sessions. Past clients have spoken about not feeling safe to speak up when working was being done on their neck, while others have vividly recalled childhood accidents they had not thought of for years.


After-Care

At the end of an SI session, the practitioner will often share corrective exercises and stretches, movement/mechanics modifications (like walking or breathing adjustments), along with suggestions for ergonomic improvements. You can even record these suggestions on your phone, to easily refer back to when practicing at home. This may look like a movement to include in their gym workout, stretches to do regularly or modifications to their yoga practice, and different ways to set up a workstation, including monitor height, sitting, standing, kneeling, and more. Performing the corrective exercises and stretches, practicing modified gait and breathing, and incorporating the ergonomic changes in one’s daily activity, can greatly improve the lessons and work obtained in the 60 to 90 minute SI sessions.


After sessions, clients typically report feeling ease, lightness, openness, clarity, centered-ness, and other. Feeling, studying, and focusing on one’s body at this time (by mindful movement, walking, and getting into nature) helps the body remember these desirable sensations and get the most out of your session. Contrarily, returning to one’s routine, driving, attending to others, can often distract from the gains of a session. Don’t forget to hydrate!



You can learn more about the background of SI in this blog (LINK HERE).


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