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An Introduction to the Integrative Bodywork Model

Many people talk about holistic approaches to integrative models. Let’s explore those terms and what they means.

Holistic Approaches

Holistic medicine is characterized by the treatment of a person as a whole. It means that all the parts are related, and that they interact. Moreover, it means that they are best addressed with consideration of the other parts.

In this model, let’s look at the green triangle. It considers the interaction of mind (M), structure(S), and biochemistry(B). Here are a few simplistic considerations in the holistic model:

  • Any counselor (M) will tell you that there are postures(S) of anger and sadness. They will also tell you that your state of mind impacts your immune system(B).
  • Pharmacologists and nutritionists(B) will assert that biochemistry plays a big part in muscle tone and bone structure(S). Also, biochemistry affects your attention, alertness, and mood(M).
  • Bodyworkers(S) see that their clients become less irritable and better regulated (M). Also, tight structures can reduce blood flow and impact the delivery of nutrients(B).

Holistic to Integrative

Integrated Approaches vs. Integrative Approaches

Integrated therapy approaches use techniques that work well together. For example, Hot stones relax muscles after intense work. Stretching evens out tissue after key trigger points are released. Glides warm the tissues to prepare for deeper kneading work. Each technique works with the other technique for a better result.

Integrative bodywork understands how one structure governs other structures. It asks the question, “what catalyst will allow the body to fix the problem at hand?” Or, what perpetuates the pattern that creates the problem?

Governors vs. Accessories

Let’s take a simple analogy. I own an old house. The door hinges were squeaking so I oiled them. The latch wasn’t closing easily so I adjusted the latch. Some time passes and the hinges are squeaking again but, now, the door is rubbing the frame. This time, I go to the basement and find that a support post is rotting. This is causing the floor above to shift. So, I fix the post. The floor moves a tiny bit, less than an inch. But now, the door frame is working better. The hinges have quit binding and squeaking. The door doesn’t rub on the frame. Best of all, I do not need to fix them again. Fixing the post was the integrative solution. By changing a governing piece, all the accessory pieces fixed themselves. The problem stopped and actually reversed the deteriorating condition of the other parts of the pattern.

Integrative Therapy does more than address symptomatic problems.
It addresses the governor that causes the accessory pieces of the pattern to start integrating.

Let’s look at a clinical example. Last year, I had a client who had disc compression in his lower cervical vertebrae. I worked on him for a few sessions, and he improved. But the problem kept returning. We added some stretches for self-care. He took supplements that help to reduce inflammation. The approach was well integrated. The approach was holistic. Still, the condition improved but was not resolving. This is an indicator that the problem is accessory in a greater pattern and governed by another problem.

We discussed pros and cons, and changed the approach. I worked on his cranial base for a few sessions. Then, I sent him for precise upper cervical work to the DC in my office who only adjusts atlases. He does it with a feather-light touch. The before and after x-rays of the lower cervical vertebrae were notably different. The disc spaces were now opened from C4-T1 where before they had been closed. The client’s Forward-Head Posture improved dramatically, and the nerve pain in his arms went away. After his second visit, the client’s situation stabilized.

Years of experience with upper cervical chiropractors told me that the cranial work was responsible for the quick stabilization. The cranial work governed the atlas. The atlas governed the lower cervical vertebrae. The lower cervical vertebrae governed the arm pain. This is the Integrative Approach.

Chain of Governor and Accessories

I love this idea. Let’s talk about a common problem.

People complain of pain that makes their ankle buckle to the side. This is a problem when wearing heels or hiking on uneven ground. I talk about the specific trigger point pattern in this post.  (which hasn’t been updated to the new format yet… sorry) There is a trigger point in the peroneus longus that creates pain around the back of the ankle and instability.

This ankle problem is part of a much larger pattern in the body. Let’s take a look at the larger pattern.

The Local Governor

If you go for foot massage, you problably know that there is a knot in the bottom of the foot, just behind the the ball of the foot. It is almost always bigger and more tender on the right. I’ll talk about why in another post.

This is the trigger point at the attachment of the peroneus longus muscle. That muscle runs down the side of the leg, hooks around the outside of the foot, and attaches in the front of the arch. It attaches right where that tender spot is.

This picture is from one of my manuals. It shows the technique for releasing that tender knot in the bottom of the foot. Also, it releases the trigger point on the side of the calf that causes that pain around the back of the ankle and instability. The trigger points release when the joint at the fibular head releases. You can feel the swollen knot in the bottom of the foot diminish when the fibular head slides down.

In other words, the joint between the tibia and fibula governs the trigger point in the peroneus longus. When the joint is freed, the trigger point releases and the swollen, tender nodule dissipates. Better tone returns to the peroneus longus and the ankle becomes more stable.

A Chain of Governors and Accessories

Let’s continue without making an exhausting post about the details of every technique.

  1. The person has an unstable ankle and pain.
  2. Problem #1 is created by a trigger point in the peroneus longus.
  3. Problems 1 and 2 are perpetuated by a joint problem at the tibia/fibular joint.
  4. Problems 1-3 are perpetuated by shearing between the ilium and sacrum.
  5. Problems 1-4 are perpetuated by shearing in the atlantooccipital joint.
  6. Problems 1-5 are perpetuated by a lateral strain pattern in the sphenobasilar mechanism of the cranium.

I’ve seen this problem many times each year over the past 25 years. I can offer relief by working the foot or pelvis. However, lasting corrections consistently come when I release the governing cranial patterns first. Afterward, the other releases are quicker, easier, longer-lasting, and, often, not even needed.

Symptomatic approaches focus on fixing the problems closer to the complaint.
Integrative approaches focus on fixing problems closer to the cause so that the body can self-correct.

I like the holistic model. I really like integrated techniques. I love Integrative Bodywork. Why? Integrative Works.

This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began improving the format. We are also adding more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We appreciate your input and feedback. You will see us adding posts and updating older posts as time permits.

Weekly Featured Post

This post shows you how to press out the trigger points and stretch the infraspinatus muscle. It’s a small muscle on the back of the shoulder but creates a number of problems, including:

  • shoulder pain when sleeping
  • loss of grip strength
  • upper neck pain
  • pain along the inside edge of the shoulder blade

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points, and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

Question? Comment? Typo?
(404) 226-1363

*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make it easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and
will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.


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