What Is Rolfing and How It Can Benefit You?


Rolfing, also known as Structural Integration, is classified as a holistic therapy which aims to organize and integrate the human body in gravity to promote well being. Specifically, it’s when a  professional Rolfer or Rolf Practitioner, performs soft tissue manipulation to a client in order to loosen and lengthen tight or shortened fascia (connective tissue) which corrects imbalances and restores alignment in the body. In simplistic terms a Rolfer works to realign connective tissue.

To better understand Rolfing, we need to know what fascia is. Myofascial layers are the connective tissue  that quite literally  holds us together and gives us our shape and form. It envelops every organ, muscle, bone, in fact every cell in our bodies.

The theory behind Rolfing is that when an injury occurs to the body or just through general living (wear and tear), fascia tightens around the injury to protects it. If the tightness remains, it inhibits free movement and has a negative ripple effect on the rest of our body. Rolfing was created by Dr Ida R Rolf, a New York biochemist in the 1930’s. “Imagine how it feels  to live in a fluid, light, balanced body, free of pain, stiffness and chronic stress, at ease with itself and the gravitational field, then you will understand the purpose of Rolfing.” (Dr Ida R Rolf, PhD)

During a Rolfing session,  gentle manipulation of soft connective tissue, is combined with movement education and the client’s subjective experience of their body. The manipulation and movement education that systematically reorganizes the fascia will help release, realign and balance the whole body in gravity. The overall objective is to attain natural alignment for an easier interaction between self and gravity. Some patients/clients of Rolfing practitioners (Rolfers) describe the effects of a Rolfing session as feeling like a well-oiled machine.

The focus on myofascial layers (connective tissue) is what distinguishes Rolfing from traditional massage therapy which targets muscles and chiropractic therapy which deals with joints.

How It Helps

Rolfing relieves general athletic aches and pains as well as resolves chronic nagging injuries if a structural imbalance or alignment issue is the underlying cause of pain. A typical treatment regimen consists of 10 sessions. Thereafter you go for sessions a few times a year for maintenance.

Benefits of Rolfing

  • Improved Posture

By easing and lengthening the connective tissue that the organs are embedded in, posture becomes more aligned and in balance. There is less tension in ligaments, muscles and tendons so the body has a better posture and can stand up straighter without effort. The benefit of improved posture reaches into all activities whether still or in motion .

  • Better Athletic Performance

Sports people place incredible demands upon their bodies daily. Rolfing can assist with flexibility, stability, better posture, injury resistance and improved recovery time which all contribute to improved performance.

  • Alternative to Surgery and Reduce Pain Medication

Rolfing can help to relieve some structural issues and in some instances help to avoid surgery and minimize pain to decrease the need for pain medication. If a patient decides surgery is necessary, Rolfing before and after can speed up recovery and healing and reduce the build-up of scar tissue thereby facilitating improved movement and regaining normal function to the affected area.

  • Repetitive Use Injuries

Overuse or repetitive use injuries such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome benefit from Rolfing especially if treated in the early stages. It manipulates the deep connective tissue so that coordinated muscle function gets reorganised and the activity gets performed a little bit differently every time so avoiding the repetitive motion and the injury. Rolfing also teaches the patient to have an increased sense of body awareness and so the potential injury is sensed long before it becomes a costly problem.

  • Reduce Headaches and Muscular Tension

Many Rolfing patients report a reduction in or complete cessation of headaches. Where there are imbalances in the head and neck tissue causing headaches, Rolfing gently adjusts the tension in the fascia and this brings the area back into alignment. Eliminating muscular imbalances frees up the body to move without inflammation.

  • Pregnancy

With pregnancy comes, weight gain, hormonal changes, risk of lower backache (sciatica), altered center of gravity and displaced organs towards the last stages. Rolfing is invaluable during pregnancy to help maintain structural alignment considering the growing strain from the enlarging uterus. It also assists in postpartum recovery.

Postpartum Rolfing will be beneficial for balancing the pelvis, and stabilizing the sacral bone at the base of the spine and tightening stretched abdominal muscles.


As with many of the “alternative” therapies, the specific benefits are largely subjective but The European Rolfing Association  does cite many studies done on Rolfing and its effects. By combining touch, movement and helping the client develop an awareness of the body, Rolfing is a highly effective way of bringing about long lasting change.

“TheHealthyMom”  researches and writes for a health and nutrition website Detox For Life . Her passion is to make research available to those who are looking to improve their well-being and revolutionize their health through better nutrition and alternative medicines.



Runners World Magazine January/February 2015 Issue