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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Structural Integration for Burn Survivors: A Conversation with Cody Smolik

Cody Smolik

Cody Smolik, a graduate of the Guild for Structural Integration, has been practicing Structural Integration since 2007. Natural Awakenings Fairfield County asked Smolik how she was able to help burn survivors through her experience finding relief with Structural Integration and their ability to self-correct their way out of pain.

What made you think Structural Integration might work for people with severe burns?

A practitioner works with Structural Integration to lengthen, stretch and soften the body’s connective tissue to restore postural balance and ease mobility issues. Because Structural Integration works from outer tissue to inner tissue, I thought it would be a good fit for burn survivors. It would provide room and movement somewhere in the body, even if it was not on the surface. Making room and using that inner space would help open the outer tissue. Many people do not move from the core; the core is a solid, strong, efficient place to begin any movement, and is the place where movement should begin.

Where did your interactions with burn survivors take place?

Shriners Burns Hospital is a 30-bed hospital in Galveston, Texas. It has an intensive care unit with 15 acute beds, a reconstruction and plastic surgery unit with 15 reconstructive beds, three operating rooms, a multi-bed recovery room, clinics and a large outpatient population.

What challenges did you face?

My clients at the hospital had never had body work and really did not know what to expect. They were nervous about being touched for many reasons and had sensitivity issues in regard to anyone working on their tissue. In addition, differing collagen levels could make the tissue difficult to work with. The patients also had varying years of living with the burned tissue and varying amounts of compliance with caring for their tissue.

There were also the grafted tissue areas, which can be surprisingly painful to work on for the client. In addition, they needed to deal with contractures. I have seen contracting skin pull a whole foot permanently at a right angle to the ankle, forcing the client to walk with the legs rotated outward. The same contractures in the hand and armpit areas can constrict the tissue there and force them out of normal alignment.

What were your findings and your goals?

Regardless of the scarred and tightened areas, I could still feel the energy flowing throughout these limbs, telling me there was potential for movement—enough to help with overall movement capability. Plus, I anticipated the added benefit of an inner life, an inner space for the client to move from. My hope was to improve the quality of life of all these clients.

My first and foremost goal was to work on burnt tissue to see if it would respond at all to Structural Integration. I had no idea what this tissue was like. And even though I know how Structural Integration can open the body and lengthen it, would it do so with bodies that had burnt and scarred tissue?

What I found was a remarkable fit and one totally suited to those with second and third degree burns. My clients were able to move more freely, live with less pain and relax into their bodies. Even though burn survivors are at the extreme end of the tissue damage spectrum, it is interesting to note that tissue does respond to Structural Integration and that the surrounding, healthier tissue does work to help the compromised tissue. And the clients did notice a difference. To them, obtaining a “more comfortable fit” within their skin was achievable.

With this preliminary work, my next goal was to do a study on this and ultimately to speak to it at the World Burn Congress. In the next few years I hope to continue my work on burn survivors as well as cancer survivors, those with compromised tissue due to radiation treated areas.

Cody Smolik is an Advanced Rolf Practitioner and Structural Integrator who practices in Fairfield County and Greenville, South Carolina. Connect with her at or [email protected].

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