Rolfing, also known as Structural Integration, is a hands-on method of freeing and balancing the connective tissues of the body.
What can Rolfing Treat?
People of all ages come to Rolfing for help with:
- neck pain
- back problems
- impaired mobility
- poor posture
- other difficulties which originate with internal strains
- the improvement of athletic performance
Rolfing was developed in the early twentieth century by American Dr Ida Rolf who became interested in body manipulation after receiving osteopathic treatment. Her research led her to conclude that the physical structure of the human body is the key to well-being, both physical and emotional. In 1971, Dr Rolf founded the Rolf Institute.
Our bodies are supported by a connective tissue network. This network, known as the myofascial system, supports the skeleton and soft tissues, positions the bones, determines the direction of muscle pulls and of movement and gives the body its shape. Gravitational force, illness, injury, emotional trauma and plain everyday stress can cause imbalances within the network and, when imbalances occur, the tissue thickens and hardens so that movement becomes restrictive. This, in turn, will give rise to feelings of chronic pain, discomfort and stiffness and can affect both physical and emotional health.
By releasing and lengthening thickened, toughened tissue, Rolfing allows the muscles the space to work and the joints the freedom to function. Rolfers believe that, of all the forces that affect the human body, gravity is among the most powerful of the forces and will encourage the body to work with, rather than against, gravity.
Once the body is correctly aligned, aches and pain caused by muscular tension are alleviated and the client’s overall health and well-being improves.
While Rolfing is primarily concerned with structural changes, any change in the physical body affects the whole person. Rolfing clients often report positive changes in their outlook on life and so, Rolfing can also be used to enhance personal growth.
Consultation and treatment
During the initial consultation, your Rolfer will take a case history, observe how you stand and move and may take photographs to assist evaluation.
Then, in a series of ten sessions, your Rolfer will systematically work around the body using fingers, elbows and knuckles to stretch and open the body’s soft connective tissue network. Rolfers also work with rhythms of respiration and other responses of the body and you may be asked to breathe into the area being worked on or to make synchronised movements.
Each treatment builds on the results of the previous one so results are cumulative. Early sessions remove strain from specific areas; remaining sessions organise and align the body as a whole. Some people may have areas which need more attention. This is discussed.
Following completion of the basic series and an integration period of six months to a year, clients can further the work they have received with a five- session advanced series.
Sessions last from 60 to 90 minutes and can be weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Effects can last for many years. On the other hand, as bodies change and people experience injuries, accidents and stressful times, additional work may be useful.
The fee per session starts at about £45 for adults but will vary amongst Rolfers.
There are no prescribed exercises associated with Rolfing. If you are already participating in a regular exercise routine, you may need to pay attention to how your body is responding to those exercises and change the programme accordingly. Stretching, Yoga and loose easy exercises are compatible with Rolfing.
How to find a practitioner
Contact the Rolf Institute’s UK contact for a list of practitioners in your area.
The Rolf Institute is based in Colorado and was founded to carry on Dr Rolf’s work. Its major purposes are to train Rolfers, to carry on research and to provide information to the public. Only individuals trained and certified by the Rolf Institute may use the Rolfing service mark. The Institute conducts trainings in Rolfing for those who have completed the required coursework in anatomy, physiology and Kinesiology, have demonstrated an ability in hands-on work such as massage or physical therapy and who have the maturity and sensitivity to work with people using this technique.
Care should be taken if you have cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, varicose veins or any other inflammatory conditions. Inform your Rolfer if you suffer from any of the above conditions.