ATSI Bodywork: A Chronic Pain Treatment Alternative Explained

Whether you are someone struggling with chronic pain, someone hoping to ease discomfort brought on by longer-term postural or movement pattern problems, or merely someone who is dealing with long-standing discomfort – even without a clear cause – a new realm of bodywork may yield helpful results. An expansion of massage therapy, the Anatomy Trains Structural Integration method (ATSI) is gaining prevalence as a method to address a variety of issues relating to whole-body pain and sense of misalignment. The method focuses on structural change that will accomplish long-term, positive results.  

ATSI Explained

ATSI, though relatively new, is the latest development in a longer tradition of myofascial manipulation, supported by research and experience. An advanced approach to bodywork, this method aims to restore balance to myofascial meridians, reducing clients’ chronic pain and discomfort as well as improving posture and freedom of movement. A review published in the National Library of Medicine (a subsect of the National Institute of Health) conducted a study to explore evidence of six of these myofascial meridians. Based on their criteria, they found moderate to strong evidence of the superficial back lines, the back functional line, the front functional line, the spiral line, and the lateral line, adding scientific support to a growing field. 


Beyond quantitative evidence, this approach aims to restore balance to individuals. Blossoming out of a previous method called ‘rolfing’, ATSI is a holistic strategy utilizing targeted massage and physical movement to improve a myriad of conditions. Developed in the 1990s by Thomas Myers, ATSI has a predecessor in ‘rolfing’, which was developed roughly half a century earlier with now extensive research behind it. Rolfing, initially labeled structural integration (SI) by its creator, Dr. Ida Rolf, was developed to treat medical conditions specifically. More specific than general massage, rolfing created deeper, full-body changes through manipulating the fascia that directly links the body’s muscles, bones, and organs. Similarly, ATSI focuses on manipulating those connective tissues to improve quality of life for clients, creating structural changes that treat anything from chronic pain to poor posture. 


How ATSI Provides Relief as a Chronic Pain Treatment

The manipulation of connective tissues called fascia is precisely how ATSI can provide relief as a chronic pain treatment. Fascia not only connects various internal structures, but according to Hopkins Medicine, also has its own nerves which make it nearly as sensitive as skin. Stress, whether from a sedentary lifestyle, trauma, or repetitive use among other things, can cause tension to form in the fascia. The fascia then tightens, which can increase stiffness and form knots, causing increased pain. Because the fascial network is so complex, this pain often shows up in places other than its source and is commonly called referred pain. By specifically addressing these complex interconnections, ATSI focuses on a whole-body solution getting to the root of what is causing a client’s distress.


By moving the body through certain positions and utilizing deep tissue bodywork, structural integration methods like ATSI are able to loosen tightened fascia and restore mobility while alleviating pain. The theory suggests that SI work stimulates receptors within the fascia which then signal the nervous system to release tension, essentially allowing the body to “reboot” those areas. In this way, Anatomy Trains can help break cycles of compounding pain and stress on fascia, allowing for greater freedom from pain and enhanced mobility.


Michael Reid, LMT, with Tom Myers the founder of ATSI

Who can benefit from ATSI Chronic Pain Treatment?

ATSI can be incredibly helpful to a wide variety of people. Ideal clients for Michael include those interested in a process of education using manual therapy, awareness, and movement to experience new possibilities within their body. Many of his clients come to ease chronic pain, improve their posture, or improve their body’s athletic performance and movement capabilities. However, structural integration and ATSI are helpful for anyone interested in a tool to ease continued discomfort and realign one’s body in order to experience enhanced quality of life for all their years to come.


Truly, Anatomy Trains Structural Integration is a tool made for many, a whole-body solution to a myriad of discomforts. Michael Reid at Bodywork for Liberation maintains unique expertise in ATSI and can aid those on a quest for pain relief and myofascial realignment. 


Schedule sessions with Michael online