As we get older most of us develop a certain amount of discomfort in our bodies. A throbbing back, tension in our neck or tingling in our feet—such aches and pains are considered an inevitable part of aging. Oftentimes this means the pain remains untreated or simply brushed aside by doctors. When our discomfort is medically validated, the solution is far too often nothing more than a pain pill prescription, which, as we all know, serves only to mask the overall issue.
This was precisely the predicament that Sue Hitzmann found herself in nearly a decade ago. At the time she was a 20-something fitness guru with a booming neuromuscular therapy practice. After developing a nearly debilitating pain in her heel, however, she was told by doctors and physical therapist alike that the pain was all in her head. They suggested she see a psychiatrist. Instead Hitzmann took matters into her own hands and dove into researching the human body. What she found was the fledgling science behind connective tissue.
An article in The Scientist explains that,
Connective tissue is something of an orphan child in medicine: although it is an integral part of the musculoskeletal system, connective tissue is basically absent from orthopedic textbooks, which deal principally with bones, cartilage, and muscles. Orthopedic interest is almost exclusively restricted to the “specialized” connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments, which connect bone to muscles and to other bones, respectively. Non-specialized connective tissues, which form what’s known as the fasciae and envelop all muscles, nerves, bones, and blood vessels, are typically allotted a short paragraph in current textbooks, if mentioned at all.”
From looking deeper into connective tissue, also known as fascia, Hitzmann surmised that there are “stuck” areas (even within young people) wherein both repetitive motions, such as running, and sedentary behaviors, such as sitting at a desk, can cause fascia to compress and dry out. Hitzmann’s solution was to develop a self-treatment plan that essentially rehydrated these self-connected tissues. It worked—so well in fact that she decided to share her method, which she called MELT (Myofascial Energetic Length Technique) with the world.
Apparently others have found it helpful as well. A recent New York Times article explains that,
MELT now has 1,300 instructors nationwide and a following that includes the Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson, who used the method on her feet before winning gold in Sochi, Russia.”
Not too shabby as far as referrals go.
Even so, one of the main benefits of the program is that you don’t have to be a young top-notch athlete to participate. In fact MELT is probably most popular with those in their 40s 50s and older. As Hitzmann’s website explains, even those who are...
…pregnant, injured, post-surgery, overweight, sedentary, out of shape, have limited mobility, chronic pain, knee/hip replacements, or bone disorders…”
...can participate in MELT.
So what sets this program apart from other bodywork? Well, MELT is different from practices such as yoga and Pilates in that it specifically addresses the neurofascial system (nervous and connective tissue system) wherein other forms of exercise focus mainly on the musculoskeletal system.
The New York Times article goes on to describe author Julia Lawlor’s personal experience participating in a MELT class led by Hitzmann herself. Lawlor explained how there was a period of assessment before working on specific problem areas:
First we assessed: Were there parts of our backs and legs not touching the mat? If the bra line was not touching (mine wasn’t) and the neck felt restricted when moving the head back and forth, that meant trouble in the shoulder girdle. If a large part of the lower back was off the mat, that meant a problem with the diaphragm. If the backs of the thighs weren’t touching (mine weren’t), the pelvis was the culprit.”
Most MELT classes, like the one Lawlor described, use only limited equipment such as soft rollers to focus on everything from the balls of the feet to the neck, back, and calves. By practicing 10 minutes a day three times a week Hitzmann (and her many followers) claim that a person can increase their flexibility, mobility, and posture while decreasing aches & pains wrinkles and cellulite, tension, headaches and risk of injury.
If this sounds like something that might strike your fancy, you can find out more about the MELT system through Hitzmann’s book, The MELT Method.
- Rolling and Flexing to Message Away Pain and Stress via NYTimes
- The Science of Stretch via The Scientist
- Melt FAQ’s via meltmethod.com