APU Health & Fitness Original

Rolfing: A Way to Fight the Body’s War Against Gravity

Rolfing® is a whole-body “structural integration” program of connective tissue manipulation that attempts to bring the body’s major segments (head, shoulders, thorax, pelvis and legs) toward a more vertical alignment. The late Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., originated this form of alternative medicine while she was searching for remedies for health problems that did not respond to conventional treatments.

What Is the Difference Between Rolfing and Conventional Massage?

Rolfing goes far deeper than conventional massage. It is guided by these principles:

  1. The body functions much better when it is properly aligned with Earth’s gravitational field.
  2. The majority of humans tend to get significantly out of alignment with gravity with the aging process.
  3. The body is so changeable and malleable that it can be brought back into balance at nearly any point in life.

According to Medical News Today, experienced and certified Rolfing professionals attempt to slightly lengthen the body to the point where the pelvis approaches a horizontal position and the body’s left and right sides are balanced, permitting the weight of the trunk to fall directly over the pelvis. When this alignment happens, the head rides more directly over the spine, the body’s natural spinal curves are reduced and the legs better support the pelvis by being realigned directly below the pelvis.

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Rolfing can correct chronic misalignments and the muscle imbalances that often occur during intense training.

 In her distinguished research career, Ida Rolf found that fascia, the connective tissue that envelopes the muscles and organs and gives the body its shape, support whatever patterns of movement and posture (either good or bad) that a person adopts throughout life. If the body adopts an unbalanced structure due to injury, overuse, chronic illness, running with bad feet or possibly even emotional problems, the fascia will adjust and harden into an unnatural position.

By applying slow, direct and specific pressure to the muscles and connective tissue, the fascia is readjusted, according to the Cleveland Clinic. As a result, tension is released, flexibility is improved and the body is realigned. Interestingly, the state of balance (or imbalance) in the body and its relationship to gravity is often reflected in how someone feels, since emotion is directly involved with muscle tone.

RELATED: Why Cooldowns After Exercise Are as Important as Warmups

How Often Do People Get Rolfing Treatments?

Rolfers claim that 10 sessions lasting 60 to 90 minutes each, spaced about a week apart, will be beneficial. They allow the body to maintain “most” of the adjustments necessary to bring the body back into gravitational alignment that will last for years to come, notes YouAligned.

Deep probing by a Rolfer’s fingers, the heels of the hands and occasionally the elbows initially produce some pain, but the end result is often the correction of chronic misalignments and the muscle imbalances that often occur during intense training. These problems often lead to plantar fasciitis in the feet and lower back injuries, health issues that plague runners the most.

Complementary and alternative medical treatments such as chiropractic treatments, herbal medicine and biomagnetics are now being used by millions of Americans. Unfortunately, much of these alternative forms of medicine are currently not covered by health insurance, but that situation may soon change, according to the American Cancer Society.

RELATED: Repetitive Motion Injuries: Industrial Workers and Athletes

Where Can You Find Rolfers in Your Community?

If you are looking for an alternative form of medicine to ease the recovery of sports-related pain or to improve your overall posture and health, give Rolfing a try. Rolfers and Rolfing movement teachers are certified at the main training centers located in Boulder, Colorado and Munich, West Germany. To obtain more information about Rolfing and the addresses of certified Rolfers in your area, contact The Rolf Institute in Boulder at 303-449-5903.

Rolfing® is a registered trademark designation for Structural Integration practitioners trained at the Rolf Institute.

Daniel G. Graetzer, Ph.D., received his B.S. from Colorado State University/Fort Collins, MA from the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, and Ph.D. from the University of Utah/Salt Lake City and has been a faculty member in the School of Health Sciences, Department of Sports and Health Sciences, since 2015. As a regular columnist in encyclopedias and popular magazines, Dr. Graetzer greatly enjoys helping bridge communication gaps between recent breakthroughs in practical application of developing scientific theories and societal well-being.

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