by Wayne Still
In the early 1800s, in what would now be called ethnic cleansing, the British moved troublesome Scottish clans from their territories in the highlands and dispersed them to the colonies. My great, great grandfather, a member of the Still clan, settled in the Muskoka region of Ontario. I am a direct descendent of that diaspora. Another descendent of the diaspora was Andrew Taylor Still who was born in Lee County Virginia in the late 1820s. He was a surgeon in the civil war where he became very familiar with human anatomy. He took a particular interest in the connective tissue which composes most of our body. When the war was over he went on to bring into being the modality of Osteopathy. The traditional discipline of the Bone Setters was his starting point and he became known as the “Lightning Bone Setter”. Since then Osteopathy has grown into both a medical science with schools and hospitals in different parts of the world as well as a method of restoring range and freedom of movement to the human body.
Dr Ida P Rolf, the founder of Structural Integration also known as Rolfing®, was interested in the nature and qualities of connective tissue. She studied the writings of A T Still, some of her work was based on those studies. From her own observations and experience she developed the ten series recipe as a teaching tool based on manipulating connective tissue. By following the recipe a practitioner can bring a clients body into a more harmonious relationship with gravity so gravity becomes a supportive force for the body, not something to fight against. Connective tissue has a characteristic that when stressed it becomes shorter, restricting its range of motion and taking the body out of balance. By releasing the restriction we can restore range of motion which helps to restore balance in the body. In my basic training the techniques we were taught to accomplish this used considerable force. The techniques were effective but at times resulted in a painful experience for the client.
Some seven years ago I began to learn a complimentary modality known as Visceral Manipulation. This is the work of French Osteopath Jean-Pierre Barral. In VM we learn to find and release restrictions using much gentler but equally effective methods to release the same restrictions. The main difference is that we learn to listen to the body and allow the body to tell us in which direction we should move the tissue in order for it to release. Generally this involves taking the tissue to a first barrier in a gentle stretch. It is at the first barrier that change can most easily occur when we follow the direction indicated by the body. Pressure used is minimal and we are sometimes accused of not doing anything!! During my most recent training in VM I learned the original Still technique.
The original Still technique uses the power of the first barrier to bring about change. In this method the tissue is not stretched to a first barrier but the tissue associated with the restriction is compressed, using bilateral pressure, to a first barrier. The tissue is held at that first barrier until a change is detected and its direction followed. When that movement ends the compressive force is released in the reverse direction to which it was applied. The tissue is then subjected to a quick circular movement ending the manipulation. I have found the technique to be effective in releasing soft tissue restrictions as well as restoring range of motion to joints. There is a ten second video showing A T Still demonstrating the technique on a mans shoulder joint. He compresses the ball of the humerus into its socket, makes a subtle movement with his hands then swings the mans arm in a wide circle. Lightning bone setter indeed.