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Manipulative and Body-Based Therapies

By Steven Novella, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine

Manipulative and body-based therapies treat various conditions through bodily manipulation. These therapies include

  • Postural reeducation

  • Reflexology

  • Rolfing (a type of massage)

  • Structural integration

These therapies are based on the belief that the body can regulate and heal itself and that its parts are interdependent.

Postural Reeducation

Postural reeducation uses movement and touch to help people relearn healthy posture, move more easily, and become more aware of their body. The therapies involved seek to release habitual, harmful ways of holding the body by focusing on awareness through movement.

The effectiveness of postural reeducation is not clear.


In reflexology, manual pressure is applied to specific areas of the foot that are believed to correspond to different organs or systems of the body. Stimulation of these areas is believed to eliminate the blockage of energy responsible for pain or disease in the corresponding body part.

Reflexology may help people relax, just as any type of massage does. No other benefit has been proved. Also, the idea that parts of the foot correspond to different organs or systems of the body is not based on any known scientific evidence.

Structural Integration

Structural integration is based on the theory that good health depends on correct body alignment. It is a form of deep tissue massage that is typically done over a series of sessions. Practitioners believe that they can correct the alignment of bone and muscle by manipulating and stretching the fibrous tissue that surrounds certain body organs (fascia), such as muscles.

The effectiveness of structural integration has not been scientifically proved.