"The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body."
Publilius Syrus, the Latin writer from the first century BC, wrote, "The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body." In truth, the two--mind and body--are intricately connected. Hellerwork is a treatment option designed to address both.
A derivative of rolfing, Hellerwork is aimed at realigning the body and rebalancing the connection between the mind and body. It was developed in the United States in 1978 by a former US aerospace engineer called Joseph HelIer. He applied the principles he had learnt from engineering to the human body to help prevent illness and improve vitality.
Hellerworkers believe that every movement is stressful to a body that is structurally misaligned. Misalignment can occur as a result of bad postural habits or in response to emotional stress. Physical and emotional stress affects the fascial tissue (connective tissue) which holds together all the body muscles and which also thickens to form ligaments and tendons.
In a balanced body this tissue should be loose and moist while under stress it becomes rigid and knotty. Any one area of stressed tissue sets up tension in the rest of the body, leading to a state of general imbalance. The object of the Hellerworker is to re-align the body and release the rigid physical, mental and emotional patterns that caused the misalignment in the first place. To achieve this they use a combination of manipulation, movement re-education and discussion.
Manipulation concentrates on stretching tightened and shortened fascia back to its normal shape. Movement re-education involves learning to move effortlessly, allowing your body to maintain perfect alignment. Through discussion the practitioner aims to make you aware of you how your emotions and attitudes can cause structural tension.
A complete Hellerwork course consists of several sessions running over 11 weeks. You are advised not to eat for a couple of hours before each consultation and you will be asked to undress to your underwear for each treatment. At the start of the first session the therapist will talk to you about your medical history, any illnesses you have had in the past, your specific needs and how Hellerwork may help you.
The practitioner will take a photograph at the beginning and end of the course to show how your posture and appearance changes over the course of the treatment. The work itself takes place on three different levels: the superficial, the core and the integrative. Some of the deeper work can hurt slightly, but it is never unbearable and most people feel relaxed and energized at the end of each session.
Practitioners begin by working on the superficial layers of connective tissue and the first three sessions of treatment focus on re-aligning and freeing tension in the chest area, feet and arms. They believe that by working on these areas you deal with the fundamental childhood issues of breathing, standing up and reaching out.
Sessions four to seven are known as the core sessions because they work more deeply into the body's core. We tend not to use our core muscles enough which means they are usually tight, inflexible and primed for problems. The practitioner manipulates these muscles to allow your body to move more freely and harmoniously.
For example, session four concentrates on the muscles of the inside leg and the pelvic floor. Sessions five and six focus on the pelvis and spine respectively, while session seven is aimed at relieving any tension that is concentrated in the muscles of the head and neck area. Work on the core also aims to resolve central emotional issues which may have first arisen during your adolescence. The third group of sessions is known as the integrative sessions. The aim of this part of the treatment is to integrate the work of the superficial and core sessions by improving the body's overall movement and balance.
The final session is like a review session. Then by the end of the entire course you will be recommended not to have any further sessions for several months. This is so that you have enough time to get to use what you have learnt by integrating it into your normal daily lifestyle.
A full course of treatment consists of eleven 90 minute sessions. Some people choose to return for advanced sessions. Such People tend to have chronic problems such as scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Many people claim to feel the benefits after one treatment and use subsequent sessions to make any improvements permanent.
Hellerwork is about disease prevention rather than just treatment. The aim of the practitioner is to try to keep mind and body in perfect balance, in order to prevent any health problems occurring. However, it has been shown to help with all sorts of and pains including neck problems, headaches and back pain.
Hellerwork can be adapted to safely accommodate the needs of most people. Pregnant women can benefit from the treatment, as can children, although they rarely need this sort of work. Hellerwork is not a treatment for disease but it can be used to complement conventional medical treatment in certain cases. It is not suitable in some types of cancer where manipulation of the tissues might speed up the spread of the disease.