What is rolfing? Is it for you?

An alternative way to deal with chronic pain is a method called rolfing. This technique...

An alternative way to deal with chronic pain is a method called rolfing. This technique was founded by a biochemist and avid hatha yoga practitioner, Ida Pauline Rolf, PhD (1896-1979). Her aim was to organize the body within gravity and improve the function of the entire body instead of dealing with individual symptoms.

Also known as structural integration, rolfing uses deep tissue massage or manipulation of the fascia to realign the body. The goal is to help people recover from misalignment, adjust their posture, improve flexibility and alleviate discomfort. By changing the body structure, the aim is to relieve chronic stress, which often can result with tension in the muscles.

How does it work?

A practitioner uses hands, elbows, knuckles, fingers and sometimes their knees to massage and knead the connective tissue, also called the fascia. This procedure is not like the usual massage; it can hurt and feel like jabbing. Rolfing is practiced this way to stimulate the fibrous connective tissue that surrounds the muscles and organs. Dr. Rolf felt that the fascia is a web-like structure, and that manipulation of this web could reorganize the whole body.


Rolfing is not recommended for patients with medical conditions involving the muscle or tissue, such as lupus or scleroderma. If the following apply to you, check with your Atlanta-area family physician before getting a treatment:

  • pregnancy
  • cancer
  • history of blood clots
  • high blood pressure
  • taking blood thinner medication
  • acute infection

Is rolfing for you?

Athletes, musicians and other types of active patients often benefit from this type of fascia manipulation. Can you deal with hour-long sessions that can be painful physically and possibly emotionally as well? If so, when you leave the session, it can leave you feeling refreshed and recharged with a sense of relief.

Patients have claimed that treatment has helped deal with symptoms of fibromyalgia, back pain, tightness in the chest from asthma and overall body malaise.

Additionally, this treatment is meant to help with stress, not on a mental but physical level. Stress leaves physical scars like muscle tension, aches and instability. Patients need the boldness to try to relax during sessions. The results are felt after treatments instead of during. The pressure of kneading knuckles, fingertips, elbows and knees may make it seem like you are getting attacked but afterwards you will notice a difference as many patients attest to.

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