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Massage Today
September, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 09

Healing From the Core: A New Paradigm, Part I

By Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD

Since ancient times, we have endeavored to describe the essential elements of how the body and psyche dance together in the healing process. Inherent in my life's purpose is the desire to contribute to this momentum and to ideas that illuminate the many dimensions of healing.

Sometimes ideas come together into simple, obvious paradigms that have not been clearly defined. In this spirit, I invite you to consider a new paradigm that reflects my learning over the past 23 years.

Conceive of working with the body from the "inside-out." Imagine a quality of touch that accesses the body's core and assists the discharge of its tensions more effectively. Consider an approach that helps to unravel the body's sophisticated capacity for distributing strain, thus bringing to the surface physiological problems that have been degrading your clients' quality of life for years. Appreciate your sense of satisfaction when clients, whom you have sensed needed additional medical intervention, actually receive this care. Feel confidence in your competence when clients make steady progress in healing from chronic problems. This article serves as an introduction to this "inside-out" paradigm. The short form has four basic tenets:

  1. In response to stress, tensions affect the visceral organs first, gathering momentum and intensity to a point where these tensions overflow into the body's intrinsic musculature.
  2. Once these tissues have exhausted their capacity to distribute the strain, the normal motions of the axial and appendicular joints become affected.
  3. Any dysfunction of motion within any joint complex, triggers neurological reflex arcs requiring the extrinsic musculature to contract in order to protect the joint(s) from further displacement.
  4. This pattern of discharge sets the stage for physiological and biomechanical degradation, which follows a four-stage progression: adaptation, compensation/substitution, injury/illness, and degeneration/disease.

When a client comes to your office with an acute or chronic muscle spasm, or other problem without evidence of recent injury or illness, the sequence described above has predated its occurrence. Thus, when our attention is focused principally on the extrinsic musculature, we are only working with the tip of the iceberg.

All touch techniques assist the body to "feel" itself, enhancing the feedback loops, which stimulate the body's self-corrective capacities; however, I propose that the models that govern most technique applications are incomplete.

The premise of this new paradigm, which advocates working from the "inside-out" postulates that "healing from the core" involves enhancing the suspension and function of the visceral organs. Their improved efficiency represents the "tipping point" in building momentum toward healing. Without the appropriate absorption of nutrients, oxygen and the timely elimination of wastes, one cannot help but lose ground in the face of traumatic incidents, immunological challenges or the grinding effects of daily stress.

The visceral organs are central to our ability to survive as infants. They are composed of smooth muscle, the first kid on the neocortical block, since the job of a baby is to ingest, digest and excrete during the phenomenal growth of infancy. The functioning of visceral organs is key to an infant's capacity to thrive. Infants have no psychological sense of separation between self and other. They are physically dependent and vulnerable, yet they experience everything around them as an extension of themselves.

Consider how an infant reacts to family tension and conflict. It becomes upset, its body contracts and writhes, it cries and screams. What is happening to the visceral tissues? They are contracting -- it is the smooth muscles that initiate those movements. This does not suggest that the baby's extrinsic musculature has no tone or function; rather, the visceral smooth muscle is predominant.

In my opinion, this is what has been overlooked in our focus on the musculoskeletal system and on structural models that view the human body from the "outside-in," rather than developmentally from the "inside-out." Contracting visceral smooth muscle predisposes the eventual capacity for gross-motor movement.1 It is a simple idea with many implications related to human development.


  1. The Body's Map of Consciousness. Lansing Barrett Gresham and Julie J. Nichols, PhD, 202.

Click here for more information about Dale G. Alexander, LMT, MA, PhD.


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