The Rossiter System® is a method for targeted relief and prevention of structural pain - i.e., pain created by overuse, injury, trauma, abuse, or stress - in which practitioners coach clients to resolve their own pain by restoring normal joint range of motion in space. The techniques employ the client's weight-assisted, active, vectored stretching of painful tissue, in the context of a pre-stressed whole-body fascial net. Structural pain, which usually resides in the connective-tissue system, often alters that system to the point where simple massages,
chiropractic adjustments, and analgesic medications no longer work. At that point, sufferers seek more drastic measures.
Thirty years ago, I was one of them. Refusing to believe it should take months of adjustments or massage to get results, I turned to Rolfing® Structural Integration (SI). Like so many clients, I fell in love with it from the first session. By the third session, I had decided to become a Rolfer. As a new Rolfer in 1983, I landed on a strange planet-Little Rock, Arkansas-where the inhabitants weren't especially interested in becoming free days and nights. Too often, our chief complaints as humans revolve around the aches and discomforts that denote chronic misalignments, and indeed Rolfing SI can take a huge chunk out of the discomfort levels of our clients. At the same time, we also attempt to make sense of things that are not pointed out from the actual pain of the client. It is our job, as agents of integration, to help humans to move from the rejection of pain, and the medical model that pain must be relieved as quickly as possible (and sometimes at great future cost), into a clearer understanding of the part that pain plays in the whole - which of course is a matter of individual meaning: like clouds in the sky, the viewer sees what she sees.
Kern; E. McKenna has been a Ro/fer since 2005, practicing first in Atlanta and Chattanooga, and currently in Los Angeles. She has gratefully served on the committees for practice building and editing of Structural Integration: The Journal of the Rolf Institute®, and enjoys writing for her blog, http://rolfingmatters. wordpress.com. Kerry has been an actress, dancer, and stuntwoman on stage. Her poetry been published in Edinburgh, Scotland through the writing group she met there while on sabbatical in 2011.
more aligned with their gravitational field. What they wanted was pain relief- and they demanded immediate results.
After I'd been in practice about a year, I was fortunate enough to begin to work with a neurosurgeon, Jim J. Moore. He promised me that if I could fix his back, he'd send me his patients. After I fixed his back with old-fashioned Rolfing SI, he sent his "basket cases" to me for the next five years. Dr. Moore was thrilled to have a referral alternative to the chiropractors, physical therapists, osteopaths, and massage therapists: he felt he was finally getting results. Though Dr. Moore seemed satisfied, there came a time when I wasn't. Results to me are about pain resolution, not human evolution. Wanting even better ones, I asked Dr. Moore's permission to expand what I was doing. He agreed to let me try working differently, with parts of the Rolfing series; and from that experiment grew the work I do and train others to do today.
Currently, our sixteen-member faculty has trained 1,525 Rossiter practitioners worldwide. The Rossiter System is taking people out of pain in fourteen countries -from North America, the U.K., and Western Europe to Israel, South Africa, India, Japan, and Guam. Most coaches are in private practice, and many focus on athletes.
How the Rossiter System Was Developed
My time with Dr. Moore gave me the freedom to go into untapped and unknown areas of connective-tissue work. I was looking for better, quicker, and longer-lasting results. I took chances. The first step was deconstructing the Rolfing Ten Series. I wanted to know cause and effect - the exact result of each thing I did; and I created a database to track the outcomes of my techniques. The second step was verifying that 1) without client involvement, nothing happens; and 2) without movement, nothing happens.
The work was challenging for clients; but while some disliked the process at first, they got over it once they felt the results. In fact, many clients wanted to stay ahead of the pain enough to return for preventive care. These were the ones who would have been hard pressed not to continue the job or activity that had created the pain, and rather than getting to a point where drastic measures such as surgery or retirement would look like good options, they used Rossiter work for prevention and maintenance. These clients were also the inspiration for what became the industrial and athletic applications of the work.
Eventually, the techniques were organized into tool kits to address specific body areas, such as the elbow, shoulder, knee, or low back. Each tool kit has several techniques, which, if applied in sequence, address most of the pain problems commonly encountered in that body area. The assortment of tools in each kit also provides a range of challenge or difficulty so that the work can be tailored to each client's abilities and tolerance. Today, the tool kits have been converted to iPad and iPhone applications, with an Android application now in development.
Premises Underlying Rossiter Work
The Rossiter System addresses just one thing - pain. Pain is why people show up. In thirty years of practice, never have my clients asked to be realigned with gravity to Figure 1: An example from a typical Rossiter workout. Note the Pl C's locking action.
further their personal evolution. Pain is why we go to doctors, chiropractors, massage therapists, physical therapists, and finally to structural integrators. Because the source of most structural pain is the connective-tissue system and structural integrators have been trained to understand connective tissue more than anyone else, structural integrators readily grasp the logic and methods of the Rossiter System. But - the look and feel of Rossiter work is nothing like that of traditional SI.
A Rossiter practitioner is a coach - not a therapist. Rossiter coaches do not cure or rehabilitate anyone. We do not focus on the etiology of the client's pain. Instead, we provide firm guidance to help the client unravel what is almost always a body-wide pattern of disorder. A Rossiter coach does not necessarily understand how the techniques work, but that understanding is largely unnecessary to relieving pain. What is necessary is to get the client to follow instructions. Not every client is willing at first. However, once they've experienced significant pain relief in only a few minutes, they start listening.
The analog to a Rossiter coach is a personal athletic trainer who watches the client perform exercises and knows how a particular exercise or stretch should look
when performed correctly. The trainer recognizes when the client is either cheating to make an exercise easier or endangering himself. Part of the job is to perceive when the client should advance to harder exercises and then to push the client to work harder. The coach needs to watch the client's eyes, palpate the quality of the client's movement, and assess the client's degree of participation. The greater the client's awareness, the greater the client's willingness to participate.
The first task of either a personal trainer or a Rossiter coach is restoration of mobility. For the personal trainer, only after mobility is reestablished should strength be addressed because, in the absence of adequate mobility, strength training or even daily activities can injure the client. The Rossiter coach addresses mobility by getting the client to restore space in the body's connective tissues. The client might not understand exactly what is happening, but still feels the result of immediate pain relief. If a technique fails to produce results - i.e., if the pain is still there - the coach knows the work is needed elsewhere and moves on.
The Client - the Smartest Person in the Room
Wh n it comes to the client's body, the smartest person in the room is and will always be the client - or the PIC (Person in Charge), as we say. The PIC's connective tissue has the innate ability to recover from injury and abuse. PICs get results in their connective tissues as a result of their own work. If the coaches were to do the work, the work would stay in the workout room with the coaches. If the PICs do the work, the power of doing it themselves lets the work go with.them.
What does the coach do? To help PICs get out of pain, the coach shows them how, gives them the tools, and then gets out of their way. Coaches control the environment, the room, the floor, the field. The coach cannot and does not control the PIC, but should inspire the PICs to work their hardest to get out of pain. Yelling and cheering are tried and true ways to get people beyond their comfort zones to achieve the best results possible. A well-timed shout of encouragement at a difficult moment can make all the difference in a session - or "workout," as we call it.
Execution of a Rossiter Technique
For any Rossiter technique to be effective, the how is as important as the what. The general sequence is this:
• The PIC is positioned on a mat on the floor.
• The coach steps on the painful body part to transmit weight, through the foot and with precision, into the PIC's connective-tissue system.
• The PIC pre-stresses the connective-tissue system with a full-body stretch we call locking (see Figure 1).
• The PIC moves the painful body part, according to directions, against the resistance of the coach's weight.
Performing a technique correctly requires attention to four elements:
• Time - urgency, immediacy and pacing.
• Power- how much energy is directed to the PIC's connective-tissue system.
• Dimension - restoring enough space in the PIC's body.
• Movement- having the PIC do the work.
The first element, time, is about condensing the duration of recovery to a minimum. It's about getting results right now- in minutes,
www.rolf.org not months. Recovery from chronic pain doesn't take a long time; it takes the PIC's concentrated effort within a short time. This means never procrastinating. If the PIC takes a shortcut, the coach makes the PIC backtrack immediately. If the PIC misses something, the coach makes the PIC go get it now.
Time is also about pacing. Because a technique is only as effective as the PIC's level of involvement in the process, its pacing should be slow enough for the PIC to engage fully in a deliberate movement.
Time is not about how long the PIC has been in pain: with the PIC's hard work, almost any structural issue can be resolved, no matter how old it is.
The amount of power put into the technique determines the speed of recovery. Power comes from the coach's weight, as well as the PIC's efforts. The addition of weight maximizes the impact of the PIC's connective-tissue stretch. Weight delivers pure energy to the PI C's body, and that body knows best what to do with it. How much weight? As much as the PIC can tolerate and still be able to execute the move. For best results, the coach should use body weight only and never push on the PIC.
To contact the PIC, the coach uses a foot -not a hand (see Figure 2). That's one reason the work is done on the floor instead of on a table. I started using my feet twenty-four years ago. (How I learned to use my feet was a complete accident.) Now, I teach using my feet only. It's much easier on both the coach and the PIC if the coach transmits weight through a limb designed to bear weight.
We l've and move in three spatial dimensions. The element of dimension is about reclaiming the space the PIC could occupy before the pain set in. Rossiter work uses a testing system to identify with specificity those spaces that the PIC cannot occupy without pain. Keeping the PIC moving at a slow and deliberate pace, the coach directs the PIC to occupy currently painful spaces in order to reclaim them.
This is where locking comes in. Locking is the PIC's active full-body stretch of the connective tissue away from the body area being worked. This makes the rest of the body a fixed point against which the PIC can move. Locking anchors the painful body area from the inside, with every fiber of the being, while the area is being stretched and stabilized from the outside by a combination of the coach's weight and the PI C's movement. The combined actions blow open restricted boundaries and can disrupt aberrant patterns that have been in place for months or even years. It's as if the PIC is ironing from the inside out the wrinkles that living has formed in the connective-tissue system. It reestablishes the PIC's naturally accessible space almost immediately, and the PIC reclaims the full pain-free dimension of movement and being.
By contrast, without locking there is no engagement of the body beyond the painful area being worked. There is no fixed point against which the PIC can work hard, no place for the rubber to meet the road. Without locking, the disengaged 95% of the body will quickly re-establish whatever connective-tissue dents and wrinkles the PIC is working locally to remove; and whatever results the PIC achieves will not last long.
The PIC does the work by stretching to the limit of a reach, assisted by the coach's weight. The vector of the reach is precise and targeted, while the extent and duration of the action are governed by the PIC's immediate limits. As the coach encourages the PIC to challenge each day's and each minute's limit, the PIC regains the connective-tissue length and range of motion required to reclaim dimension. Often, the PIC will need to work with multiple vectors in order to regain normal and natural movement.
If we stretch any connective tissue hard enough or long enough, it will eventually become painful. In Rossiter work, we are looking for that limit. It doesn't take long to see who is serious about getting out of pain: serious PICs test their own limits often.
The Rossiter System organizes individual techniques into short protocols - workouts of ten to thirty minutes' duration - for PICs who came to be in pain from activities they are not going to stop doing. Some protocols are designed for use in factories and other workplaces, while others are for athletes. However, these same protocols may be used in the traditional clinical practice setting.
Relief and Prevention of Pain from Repetitive Stress in the Workplace1
Many workers develop structural problems as a result of the work they do. Occupationally induced carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder pain, low back pain, and hip pain are endemic in industries such as poultry and meat processing; parts manufacture and assembly; cutting and sewing; data processing; furniture manufacture; and virtually any kind of assembly-line task. Warehouse workers, retail clerks, and others who walk or stand on concrete all day are also vulnerable, particularly to back or hip pain.
Unfortunately, the usual remedies are shots and surgery; and despite the high cost of these treatments, the workers are not pain-free for long and are prescribed increasingly invasive and damaging treatments. In most industrial facilities, this story plays out not with a single worker, but with a substantial percentage of the entire work force. When workers' symptoms recur, absenteeism increases, and productivity declines. Eventually, those workers with the most skill and experience are forced into involuntary early retirement - to the economic detriment of themselves and the employer alike. Of course, the individual workers suffer more than economic harm. They suffer diminished quality of life for years, as they take the pain of their jobs home to their families and out into their leisure and community activities.
What's worse, in the smaller or rural towns where industrial facilities are often located, the usual approach to occupational repetitive stress injury (RSI) has the potential to cripple not only a plant, but a once-thriving community. After fifteen to twenty years' operation, the employer, undoubtedly drawn to the town in the first place partly because of its healthy labor pool, discovers that the local hospital's bottom line is improving at the expense of his own. And, the plant has disabled so many bodies that fresh workers are increasingly hard to come by. Preferring a healthy work force to a thriving hospital, the employer relocates and takes his jobs with him.
The safety officer of one furniture manufacturer felt as ifhe were accumulating a huge bone pile out back out of folks who could never do their work again. He hated seeing his friends and neighbors drop out of the work force. His company, like employers everywhere, was losing maybe five to ten of what should be workers' most productive years. The problems would start small, as things that should be very easy to recover from; but the "cures" of shots and surgery eventually made them all worse until people too young to retire could no longer handle their jobs.
None of this has to happen - not the human suffering. not the economic losses, not the community degradation - and none of it should happen ever. There is no excuse for it. My twenty-three years' experience in the field indicates that the vast majority of occupationally induced RSI can be relieved and prevented from recurring through techniques that can be executed right at the workplace in only a few minutes per session.
For a sense of the economic benefits the Rossiter System has brought to the work place since 1990, consider the results from one of the world's largest manufacturers of ready-to-assemble furniture, which had experienced major increases in workers' compensation claims despite having instituted positive ergonomic changes. The company instituted an on-site Rossiter System program, and .in the program's second year, the company's claim costs were 70% lower than they had been the year prior to the program. This was true even though the company had grown nearly 45% - from about 1,900 employees to nearly 2,700. Lost work days went from 685 to 30 - down 96%. Finally, claim cost per hour worked went from 12 cents to 2 cents.
Relief and Prevention of Pain in Athletes2
Once athletes start down the grim path of shots and surgery, they're on borrowed time, risking perhaps years of competitive activity. Because athletes are disciplined and motivated, they should be among the easiest clients for anyone to help recover from injury 9r overtraining. Unfortunately, however, residual pain often prevents full recovery - either by continually recurring or even by getting worse. On the whole, trainers do not have the proper tools to address the pain and rest does not resolve it. For the professional athlete, this p signals the end of his career.
This Too Does Not Have to Happen
Tennis enthusiast Cathy Corbett attributed her 2010 singles and doubles championship in Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Rossiter Coach Ruth Nottage, who fixed Kathy's knee just before the tournament. Ruth reported, "Cathy was blown away by the quick and remarkable results she had." Sometimes it's just that simple - fixing a recent problem the day of the event.
Other times, the Rossiter System is a means for the athlete to regain full mobility following a longstanding problem. In the golf world, distance hitters, called "long drivers," are the heavy lifters. Professional long driver Jeff "Critter" Crittenden, one of golf's best, had not fully recovered full arm rotation following a bicep tendon injury -even after a year of physical therapy. He was unable to use his left arm effectively and was in pain when he got to Rossiter Coach Chuck Lubeck. Two moves later, out of pain and his arm rotation restored, Critter won the Dixie Classic Long Drive tournament, and he credited the win to Chuck and the Rossiter System: I [had] yet to regain full rotation in that arm until I allowed Chuck to introduce me to a Rossiter Workout. He applied weight to my arm and directed me to move it around in specific motions and voila. I was suddenly able to do what I had not been able to do since before my injury. I was able to fully rotate my arm and went on to win the Dixie Classic Long Drive event that very day. I'm sure Chuck had everything to do with my winning that event and I can't thank him enough.
Rossiter work can be used preventively in athletic training, just as it is in the workplace. As reported in The Professional Skater in 2011, maintaining competitive figure skaters' flexibility and mobility is key to injury prevention and better performance, and the Rossiter System has proven itself an invaluable component of off-ice conditioning. Similarly, for two different high school baseball teams, the Rossiter System was used regularly for six consecutive years as a means to prevent injury. In those six years, no pitcher on either team was ever injured. Ask any baseball coach if that's not amazing!
Whether coaching a whole assembly line, a struggling athlete, or an ordinary SI client, the most rewarding moment is seeing the look on the face of a person who gets up and can't believe the pain is gone - that the pain the person expected to have to live with forever and take meds for to boot is actually gone! Someone who'd been forced to give up a job, sport, or hobby gets to go back to it. Relationships that were under stress because a spouse couldn't even bend over, much less help with the chores or participate in travel and play, can recover. People who had stopped being able to make love because of the pain, now can. People who had to stop exercising or even walking can shed the excess weight they gained.
Liberated from the fear of doing things that had caused pain before, folks who had lost interest in life suddenly have the confidence, as well as the ability, to get back to doing things they'd given up on. Why? Because even if the pain returns, they know how to get out of it. The emotional distress of feeling left out of life doesn't rear its ugly head any more.
Though the Rossiter System is not Rolfing SI, it is derived from my training and experience as a Rolfer. This body of work enlists the traditional SI premises of 1) working with the whole fascia! net; 2) using gravity (i.e., weight and the client's sense of it); and 3) tapping into the client's capacity to self-organize. It also affirms some truths familiar to Ida Rolf's heirs: without movement, not much happens; and without client involvement, not much happens. Though Rolfing SI is not second-paradigm work, its teachings underpin the Rossiter System's powerful second-paradigm pain-relief methods.
1. In the parlance of the Rossiter System, the series of workplace protocols are called Quantum Pain Relief®.
2. In the parlance of the Rossiter System, the series of athlete protocols are called PainSlayer® and the PainSlayer Series.
For general information on the Rossiter System, to find a Rossiter Coach in your area, or to learn about becoming a Rossiter Coach, visit www.therossitermasters.com.