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Rolfing is a massage technique aimed at the vertical realignment of the body, and therefore deep enough to release muscle tension at skeletal level, which can contribute to the relief of long-standing tension and neuroses.


The vigorous deep-tissue massage known as rolfing is not aimed at any specific injury or ailment. Instead, it promises to relive stress, improve mobility and boost energy, thus improving your general well being. Although not devised for this purpose, it has, however, helped people with chronic back pain, whiplash, and other spinal problems.

Procedure of Treatment

The deep massage techniques employed in rolfing seek to loosen and relax the fascia-the membranes that surround the muscles. (Rolfers believe that the fascia toughen and thicken over time, subtly contorting the body and throwing it out of healthy alignment.) To break up knots in the fascia and 'reset' the muscles, rolfers apply slow, sliding pressure with their knuckles, thumbs, fingers, elbows and knees. The treatments are not mild and relaxing-indeed, they can cause a degree of pain. However, practitioners view this temporary discomfort as a sign that the treatment is achieving the changes necessary to bring the body back into proper alignment. Before beginning the treatments, the therapist will take your full medical and personal history, and evaluate your posture and body structure for signs of tension and misalignment. The treatments themselves are performed while you lie or sit on a massage table or floor mat. You will probably be asked to synchronize your breathing with the therapist's manipulations. You may also be required to move your arms and legs in certain ways. During each session, the rolfer will concentrate on a different set of muscles, starting with those nearest the surface and moving on to those deep within the body. To maximize the benefits of treatment, the therapist may also teach you self-help exercises known as 'movement integration'.

Treatment Time: Sessions usually last 60 to 90 minutes.
Treatment Frequency: The standard Rolfing Structural Integration Programme consists of ten weekly sessions.


Rolfing is the creation of Ida Rolf, a biochemist and physiologist who established the Rolf Institute for Structural Integration in 1970. She believed that, for optimum health, the body must be in alignment with gravity: Any deviation from the norm requires extra energy for movement and imposes unnecessary strain on the muscles. She contended that, as the muscles work to compensate over the passing years, the fascia surrounding them tend to bunch up and harden, creating even more strain. Ultimately, she said, the cumulative stress can interfere with normal breathing and impair circulation, digestion, and the nervous system. The treatments she developed do seem to make a difference. Although research is limited, a controlled study conducted by the Department of Kinesiology of UCLA found that people who underwent rolfing demonstrated a greater range of motion. They were able to move more easily, smoothly, and energetically. Their posture was improved, and they were able to maintain their posture more comfortably-in other words, they could stand in a given position without straining themselves to hold that position. Researchers at the University of Maryland obtained similar results. They found that rolfing resulted in greater physical strength, less stress and enhanced nervous-system response. This study also noted an improvement in subjects who had curvature of spine. Children with cerebral palsy benefited from rolfing, as did people with whiplash and chronic back pain.

Who Should Avoid This Therapy?

Don't undertake rolfing if you have cancer; there is a theoretical possibility that the manipulations could encourage the spread of malignant cells. Rolfing is also ill-advised for people with rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.


While the treatments have no lasting side-effects, they sometimes prove painful. They are also said to occasionally release suppressed memories of severe emotional anguish.