What is Rolfing?

Rolfing is a deep tissue massage technique designed to loosen and break up muscle tightness, as well as adhesions formed over the deepest muscles of the body. Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that have formed over the coverings of the fascia, which are the connective tissue coverings of the muscles. Adhesions may also develop over other connective tissue structures, such as the ligaments and tendons. These adhesions may develop in response to injuries and other factors, which have traumatized the affected tissues. Other injuring factors include surgery complications, and the body compensating for other injuries by changing body mechanics. Rolfing is another manipulative therapy designed to bring the elements of the spine, as well as the connective tissues on both sides of the body, into balance. Rolfing is also known as Structural Integration.

Due to the wear and tear effects of time, our spines may slip out of alignment, causing us to hyperextend or hyper flex our backs. Other wear and tear conditions include osteoarthritis of our weight-bearing joints, and the facet joint arthritis in our spines. Without the proper treatment, we may compensate the way we carry ourselves by favoring other areas of the body to take the pressure off of the places that hurt us. When joints and other body sections are forced to bear loads that are greater than they were designed to, injuries may develop. As a result of these changes in body mechanics, the connective tissues in our bodies stretch to adapt to these particular postures. The long term effects of these changes are to hold us in these unbalanced postures and movements. Eventually, the body will remain out of balance as the connective tissues on one side of the body shorten, while the connective tissue structures on the other side of the body lengthen. This domino effect of one injury creating another may result in our whole body feeling out of balance, limited of movement, and painful.

Rolfing is a deep tissue massage technique that is designed to break up scar tissue development around the deepest muscles of the body, near and around the skeletal muscles. Rolfing is a manipulative therapy that involves penetrating massage and vigorous movement to loosen the connective tissue coverings covering the muscles. The clinician that is trained to recognize these musculoskeletal problems and perform the massage techniques may be known as a Rolfer. Following a series of Rolfing sessions, a patient should be able to stand up straighter, have an improved posture, and be able to move their body better - without limitations. A Rolfing therapy session should have the clinical effect of correcting soft tissue fixations, in which the ability to contract and extend the muscle is affected by injuries which produce prolonged tightness in the fascia that surround these muscles.

Limited research has shown promise in treating various orthopedic related pain conditions, though these clinical studies have included small patient numbers. Of the studies that have been performed, trials have demonstrated decreases in pelvic tilt angle for patients with lower back pain. Beyond the measurable physical benefits that patients report related to postural changes and lowered pain levels, many Rolfing patients also report psychological benefits as well. Patients have reported decreases in anxiety following one or more treatment sessions.

To receive certification to perform this holistic system of tissue manipulation, one must be certified by The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI). The other certifying body is the Guild for Structural Integration. Graduates of the Guild for Structural Integration use the title of "Practitioners of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration." Here are the addresses and contact information for these two organizations.
  • The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI) http://www.rolf.org/ 5055 Chaparral Ct #103 Boulder, CO 80301 (303) 449-5903

  • The Guild for Structural Integration P.O. Box 1559, Boulder, Colorado 80306 303-447-0122 800-447-0150 FAX 303-447-0108 http://www.rolfguild.org/
Ida Pauline Rolf developed this therapy to help disabled patients who failed to receive help anywhere else. Her hands on methods were first celled "Postural Release" and later "Structural Integration" but finally became known as the term recognized today.

How Rolfing Works: Our body movements work as our skeletal muscles expand and contract. Skeletal muscles usually work in opposite pairs labeled the "agonist" and "antagonist", one of these contracting while the other relaxes. When the muscles and these fascia coverings are healthy and strong, we are comfortable using them and feel no restrictive movements or pain. When the fascia becomes "bound up" in one of these pairs, they may no longer work properly together. To correct this problem, the Rolfer uses his or her hands to loosen this bound up area of fascia causing the disability. The Rolfer uses his hands to separate the separate the fibers of the knotted area of fascia. As the individual fibers begin to separate, the fascia becomes healed and the patient's body becomes looser and straighter.