Is Rolfing Painful?

Rolfing was developed by Dr. Ida P. Rolf PhD. Rolfing Structural Integration is a whole body approach to pain relief and life transformation. There are 206 bones in the body and multiple segments stacked upon each other. Each part is in relationship with whatever is adjacent to it and relative to other segments. We live on a planet that is influenced by the force of gravity. Manipulating fascia causes Structural Realignment, postural balance, freedom from tension, pain and old injuries, scar tissue and emotional trauma with a rebalancing effect that allows freedom of movement; better energy; improved balance, healthier attitude and a better life. Rolfing’s early reputation was often associated with being painful however that was usually by people who had never personally experienced it. I would like to help you understand the truth about modern Rolfing.
Although Dr. Rolf envisioned this work to be an adjunct to Osteopathy, in the early days of Rolfing, it became popular because it made transformational life changes in those who had Rolfing Structural Integration. It flourished in the humanistic movement at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. Hippies were open to new ideas and Rolfing became synonymous with change. The reputation for it being painful has preceded Rolfing for years. The early practitioners didn’t have the scientific information about the way that fascia changes as we do today. They knew that if they applied pressure to the fascial tissues they would change. It is true that it was more painful then. Pain was tolerated because it was temporary pain as tissues were being released. Pain that people experienced was tolerated because the relief they received from Rolfing was great. Deep muscle therapy today is far more uncomfortable than Rolfing.
Here are some quotes from Dr. Rolf: “Some individuals may perceive their losing fight with gravity as a sharp pain in their back, others as the unflattering contour of their body, others as constant fatigue, yet others as an unrelentingly threatening environment. Those over forty may call it old age. And yet all these signals may be pointing to a single problem so prominent in their own structure, as well as others, that it has been ignored: they are off balance, they are at war with gravity.
This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.
Today we in the field have much more information about mechanoreceptors that are imbedded within fascia. We know better how to manipulate fascia in a more beneficial way to make Rolfing less painful and more effective. When fascial tissues change, people gain freedom. Painful Rolfing is no longer used to describe Rolfing. Freedom, lightness, length, space, transformation and the ultimate in relaxation are descriptive of my personal style and technique.


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