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Rolfing or structural integration
The name "Rolfing SI" goes to the founder of this therapy method, Dr. SI stands for "Structural Integration". Rolfing starts with the fascia, a connective tissue structure that runs through the whole body. Manual, massage-like touches are intended to loosen adhesions or matting of the fascia, thereby alleviating complaints such as tension or chronic back pain.
Complementary posture and movement exercises convey a feeling for your own body, for healthy posture and harmonious movement sequences. They are intended to improve body awareness and help keep the body in a relaxed, upright posture even after the treatment has been completed.
What are fascia?
The term "fascia" comes from the Latin word "fascia", which means "band" or "bandage". Fascia are found throughout the body. All collagenous, fibrous parts of the connective tissue such as muscles, ligaments and tendons consist of fasciae or are pulled through and enveloped by them. Fascia therefore play an important role in the structure of the body: they give it support and shape and, in a healthy state, enable fluid, painless movements.
Various factors can cause problems on the fascia. This includes overloading or underloading due to too much, too little or wrong movement, stress, accidents or operations. This creates tension, sticking or matting of the fascia, which can be expressed, for example, by pain or restricted mobility.
That's how Rolfing works
The Rolfing method is a form of holistic body work. The aim is to achieve a relaxed, upright posture with good body mobility. The body should be balanced so that complaints such as tension, blockages or pain disappear and the entire organism can function optimally. This also improves awareness of your own body.
Rolfing contains two important components: The detailed consideration of the individual posture and movement sequences with the location of blockages, tension and other impairments and their causes as well as their remedy by manual therapy of the fascia afterwards.
First of all, the patient and the practitioner work together on how walking or standing feels; they name inequalities in aspect ratio, for example a shoulder raised on one side, or problems with balance when walking. Possible causes are also discussed. How is everyday life going? Rather sedentary? What posture is adopted during work? Are there one-sided loads or tensions due to stress? Have there been any operations, broken bones or bedridden in the past that may have had a long-term effect on the condition of the fascia in one area and thus on the entire body system?
By working the fascia with massage-like techniques, tension, gluing or matting of the fascia are then loosened and released throughout the body. For this, the therapist uses hands, fists and forearms.
Rolfing therapy usually consists of ten sessions. Sessions one, two and three are called kick-off sessions. Here external tension patterns are to be recognized and resolved. In sessions four, five, six and seven, therapy deals with the deeper layers of the fascia and the straightening of the body. This part of the treatment is called core sessions. Sessions eight, nine and ten are referred to as integrative sessions, in which the interaction of the body structures is in the foreground. The patient is given a feel for how their own body is aligned along the so-called vertical gravity line. So it should be possible to bring the body into a relaxed and upright posture again and again, even after the end of the therapy.
Origin of the Rolfing method
The term Rolfing goes in the name of its inventor Dr. Ida P. Rolf (1896 - 1979) who developed this holistic treatment method in the mid-twentieth century. Dr. Ida Rolf researched human connective tissue at the Rockefeller Institute as a doctor of biochemistry. She also worked intensively on, among other things, osteopathy and yoga and exchanged views with the founders of the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique. Findings from this have been incorporated into Rolfing. She herself called her method "Structural Integration". Only later did Dr. Rolf's name in the name of the method. Today you can find the names "Rolfing SI", "Rolfing Structural Integration" or simply "Rolfing".
The body is viewed holistically in Rolfing. Knowledge of how tension arises and how tension or blockage at one part of the body also affects other parts of the body is taken into account. For example, neck tension can be caused by various hip problems. From Ida Rolf's point of view, gravity plays a fundamental role: she was convinced that certain prerequisites had to be in place for the structure of the human body to be in harmony with gravity. In their opinion, this was the basis for the fact that the whole person "can function optimally and ergonomically". A Rolfing treatment should straighten the body along a vertical line so that gravity can be used again as a “positive, buoyant force”.
Until old age, Dr. Rolf passed on her knowledge and method of structural integration to numerous students at the “Rolf Institute of Structural Integration” she founded in Boulder, Colorado.
Who is Rolfing helpful for?
Rolfing is used to relieve tension, for example in the shoulder and neck area. Rolfing can also be helpful for chronic back pain, pain in the hip, feet or knees. All complaints of the musculoskeletal system that are triggered by one-sided loads or gentle postures can respond well to Rolfing therapy.
When should Rolfing not be used?
Before you start Rolfing therapy, you should consult your family doctor. Because Rolfing should not be used for some clinical pictures. These include aneurysm, inflammatory diseases and phlebitis. In the case of arteriosclerosis, cancer, osteoporosis, long-term use of cortisone and certain mental illnesses, you should also clarify beforehand whether Rolfing therapy is suitable for you.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Magistra Artium (M.A.) Katja Helbig, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Hans Georg Brecklinghaus: Rolfing - Structural Integration, Lebenshaus Verlag, 6th edition, 2015
- Website of the European Rolfing® Association e.V., (accessed October 11, 2019), rolfing.org
- Website Rolfing® Verband Deutschland e. V., (accessed October 11, 2019), rolfingverband.de