BY JUDY STEVENS
The harder you stretch, the better results you’ll get in shorter time.
In his late twenties, commercial helicopter pilot Richard Rossiter developed flying-related shoulder pain so severe that he began looking for non-drug, non-surgery approaches to pain relief.
He eventually found help in a type of bodywork called Rolfing, which loosens the body’s connective tissue from head to toe. Impressed with the amount of pain relief it offered, he trained at the Rolf Institute in the 1980s and began working with a variety of clients, including factory workers suffering from low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other injuries related to overuse.
Over time he developed powerful two-person stretches to help people prevent injury and maintain connective tissue in its normal, flexible state so they could avoid drugs, splints, cortisone shots, and surgeries for structural pain problems. Because the Rossiter two-person stretching techniques are so new and different, many questions come up. These are among the most commonly asked.
How exactly do these techniques work?
Unlike muscle stretches, the Rossiter techniques target the body’s connective tissue, a head-to-toe network of fascia, ligaments, and tendons that holds everything together. Think of this network like a Saran Wrap covering of your body—your muscles, nerves, blood vessels, joints, bones, etc. In a healthy body, it’s not too loose and not too tight—it is the body’s system of “space.”
When connective tissue becomes overworked, stressed, or tired, however, it shortens and it tightens. The resulting symptoms include tingling, tightness, numbness, knots, pain, tenderness, buzzing sensations, and the like. These techniques were created specifically to loosen and lengthen the body’s entire network of connective tissue so that it’s fluid, flexible, and normal again, allowing you to move freely, and without pain.
What’s so special about connective tissue?
Connective tissue has two proteins—plastin and elastin. When exposed to weight and heat (such as from the pressure of a person’s hand, arm, or foot during these stretches), connective tissue begins to loosen so that you can stretch it back to normal. Just like “plastic” and “elastic,” these proteins keep the tissue loose and stretchy.
Do I have to have a partner?
Yes. A regular Rossiter workout requires two people, working toward a common goal, so you get much better results than one person stretching alone.
How long will the results last?
It depends. How long have you been in pain? If you’ve been suffering for years, it may take several weeks or months for you to begin feeling pain-free most of the time. But if you do the Rossiter techniques regularly, you will eventually get out of pain.
If pain returns, you now have new tools to relieve it quickly and effectively, without drugs, splints, shots, or surgery.
How often do I have to do the stretches?
Again, it depends on several factors. If your pain is new, maybe you need to do a workout only once, or once a month. If your pain is chronic, you may have to do it every day. Once you get used to a workout, you’ll get a much better sense of your own body and how quickly it responds to these techniques.
How long should a typical workout last?
No workout should ever last more than 45 minutes. The first workout or two might take an hour, until both of you get good at the techniques. But once you’re familiar with the techniques, you should be able to do a workout in 30 minutes.
Are there any side effects?
You may have some slight bruising for a day or two and your muscles may feel a little tender or sore, but that will go away in time. If you do more than the recommended number of stretches or stretch way too hard, you may get bruises or soreness.
Are the techniques safe?
In the 15 years Rossiter & Associates has been working with corporate clients like Nissan, Goodyear, and Campbell’s Soup, no one has ever been hurt.
Can I do them if I’ve had surgery?
Yes. You can do the workouts if you’ve had surgery as long as you’ve been released by your doctor and you’re able to perform the stretching techniques. The only exceptions are low back surgery or surgery to treat sciatica pain, herniated disc, etc. That kind of surgery is a reason not to do the Rossiter techniques, since they are designed to be effective on the back in its natural form.
Why are the back techniques done on the thighs, don’t the stomach muscles support the back?
Of all the muscles that control your back, the thigh is the most powerful. But because of several factors—the way you lean on one leg, bad posture, habits that make you use one leg more than the other—one thigh becomes a little bigger and stronger than the other. When it become bigger, and when its connective tissue becomes overworked, the tissue shortens and tightens, forming knots. Everyone who has back pain usually has some knots in the thigh that respond to these techniques.
Working on the thigh is not an accepted medical approach for relieving back pain, but more than 20 years in the field have proven these techniques effective. Many forward-thinking doctors now believe back pain has very little to do with the actual bones and joints of the back, but is almost always a result of tightness in the muscle and tissues that support the back. Once the tissues are free and loose again, back pain melts away.
How do Rossiter techniques help back pain?
Many of the “symptoms” of back pain are actually a result of imbalance. Things like bulging discs, arthritic vertebrae, herniated discs, and pinched nerves may actually be a result of tightness in the connective tissue that supports the back. Once you loosen the tissue and muscles by actively stretching the thigh, everything has space again. Discs un-bulge and are no longer squeezed. Nerves become un-pinched. Joints quit rubbing against each other, and arthritis symptoms disappear.
Do I have to be a physical therapist or massage therapist to learn these stretches?
No. Anyone can learn these two-person stretches. Therapists learn Rossiter techniques because it quickly and effectively relieves carpal tunnel syndrome, hand-wrist-finger pain, elbow pain, neck and shoulder pain, and low back pain with less stress on their own bodies. In Iowa it is unlawful for an unlicensed person to receive payment for offering this or any other form of bodywork, but no law prevents friends helping friends.
How can I find out more about how to do these stretches?
Visit www.rossiter.com to have access to hundreds of stretching techniques, background information, written instructions, photos, and streaming videos that will help you relieve and reverse pain.