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Supplement Pain Treatment with Rolfing

Posted Dec 12 2009 11:53pm
If you experience any type of pain and are undergoing a treatment plan, you may find some additional relief with rolfing. Also called structural integration, rolfing involves the manipulation of soft body tissues including ligaments, muscles, tendons and fascia, the fibrous tissue covering the muscles.


The founder of this type of bodywork, Dr. Ida Rolf, believed that emotional stress does manifest itself physically by creating cramps, tight muscles, general aches and pains and even pain in trigger points. During stressful times, Dr. Rolf felt that the body reacts by holding in that stress, causing pain throughout the body. If you have ever felt achy but had no discernible physical cause, it is likely that stress is the culprit. Dealing with a chronic pain condition can cause undue stress in your life, so while you may already be getting treatment for it, you still need to deal with the physical aspects of the stress as well.

Primary Conditions Treated

The primary goal of rolfing is to bring the different body parts such as the back, pelvis, legs and neck into proper alignment. During times of stress, the fascia stiffens up, losing elasticity and length, which in turn causes pain in different areas of the body. Poor posture can be caused by unresolved stress as can a variety of health conditions.

If you experience muscle pain and aches in the lower or upper back, rolfing can help. Neck pain and leg pain can also be treated too. Sciatica, herniated disks, scoliosis and body pain from repetitive actions such as stooping, twisting or even sitting incorrectly can also benefit from this type of specialized body work.

Experiencing a Rolfing Treatment

Before your first session with a rolfing practitioner, pictures of your body are taken so you can compare yourself before and after each session to give you an idea of how much this bodywork can help. Most treatment courses are 10 weekly sessions, approximately one hour in length each time. Each session typically focuses on a different part of the body.

Rolfing practitioners use their knuckles, elbows, and fingers to stretch the fascia around the areas in the most pain. Opening up the fascia with deep tissue manipulation helps correct the misalignment of muscles, tendons and ligaments in key areas around the legs, head, shoulders, pelvic area, abdomen and back. During these rolfing sessions, you typically lie down on a massage table or even a floor mat, depending on the tissue manipulation.

Many rolfing followers believe that undergoing this deep tissue manipulation helps improve your breathing and digestion as well as “wake up” and balance the nervous system. Emotional and physical wellbeing is also documented as well. Rolfing can be uncomfortable when pressure is applied to the fascia and deep tissues. This is typically a reaction to releasing the tight muscles and connective tissues. After each session, many people report that they experience a beneficial ache, much like what you would feel after a successful exercise session.

Rolfing not for Everyone

The practice of rolfing is generally safe for most people who experience some type of physical pain. However, this type of bodywork should be used as a complementary therapy rather than the sole treatment of a condition. In addition, because the practice involves deep tissue massage and manipulation, there is a small segment of the population who should avoid rolfing. If you are pregnant, have severe osteoporosis, spinal disease, bleeding disorders, open or healing wounds, and varicose veins or are taking blood thinners for a health condition, you should avoid rolfing.

However, if you are relatively healthy but suffer from musculoskeletal pain and have tried other types of massage or even chiropractic care, consider booking a rolfing session with a licensed practitioner. The deeper tissue manipulation may be just what you need to feel like your old self again.

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