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Aston Patterning

Aston-patterning is a specialized therapy of physical therapy and massage designed to relieve muscle tension and pain, speed recovery from injuries, and aid in general relaxation and stress-reduction.


It is particularly well suited for such problems as back and neck pain, headache and repetitive stress injuries like tennis elbow. Like most forms of bodywork and movement training, Aston-patterning does not lend itself to controlled clinical trials and its effectiveness has, therefore, not been scientifically verified. It requires a significant commitment on part of the patient; it is much more than a programme of passive massage.

Procedure of Treatment

Aston-patterning sessions are conducted one-to-one with a trained practitioner. They include massage, movement training, fitness exercises and advice on changes in the home and work environments. When you begin the programme, the practitioner will conduct an extensive evaluation of your general fitness, including your history, physical measurements and movement habits. Movements tested range from simple acts of sitting and standing to racing an Aston-patterning flexion/extension movement of the whole body. The massage segment of the treatment employs a special "spiralling" technique that relaxes tense muscles and loosens stiff joints without causing pain. The goal is to release tightness and tension, thus permitting the body to revert to a healthier posture. Movement training during the sessions is designed to reinforce the results of massage, bringing your routine habits of motion into harmony with the unique configuration of your body. This may require intensive drilling in certain movements that the practitioner selects to correct your posture and the way you bear your weight. These repetitive drills are likely to continue until relaxed, efficient movement becomes second nature to you. Employed as an adjunct to movement training, the fitness exercises typically encountered in Aston-patterning concentrate on improving muscle tone, joint resiliency and lightness of movement. These exercises are backed up by counselling on ways to achieve healthier movement and posture in your daily routine. Recommended environmental adjustments can range from simply changing the height of a chair to employing a variety of cushions, knee supports, and side body supports to keep the spine and other areas of the body in proper alignment and prevent postural compression.

Treatment Time: Sessions generally last one to two hours.
Treatment Frequency: Governed by the severity of the problem.


Aston-patterning practitioners, along with the advocates of many other types of bodywork, believe that relaxed, efficient movement and a balanced, effortless posture can relieve unconscious stress, thus improving emotional and physical well-being. The Aston-patterning techniques were developed by dancer Judith Aston during her recovery from a pair of automobile accidents. It is an extension of Rolfing, a form of deep massage therapy aimed at improving the body's alignment. After her successful rehabilitation through Rolfing, Aston devised a programme of movement training and exercise aimed at maintaining the benefits of massage

Who Should Avoid This Therapy?

The Aston-patterning drills and exercises can be extremely demanding. If you have a heart condition or respiratory problems, check with your doctor before undertaking this form of therapy, and if you proceed, make sure the practitioner is aware of your disorder. The programme can be adjusted to meet the needs of older adults, those in poor health, and patients with special rehabilitation requirements. The deep massage employed in Aston-patterning could prove dangerous if you have brittle bone disease (osteoporosis) or a tendency to bruise easily. Also avoid this therapy if you have a bleeding disorder, take anticoagulant drugs, or are undergoing long-term steroid therapy, which can make the tissues fragile. If you have circulation problems such as those resulting from diabetes or varicose veins, be wary of massage in the legs and feet. Remember, too, that excessive pressure can aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome, which is itself a result of pressure on a nerve that passes through the wrist.


For people in good physical condition, most complications are the result of overly intensive training. Exhaustion and pain are the principal dangers. Be sure to give the practitioner plenty of feedback during the sessions. An experienced practitioner will know how hard to push and when it is best to stop.