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Title: Rolfing  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Massage, Postural Integration, Teahouse/Questions/Archive 208, Bodywork (alternative medicine), Ida Rolf
Collection: Alternative Medical Treatments, Manual Therapy, Massage Therapy, Pseudoscience
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


NCCAM classifications
  1. Alternative Medical Systems
  2. Mind-Body Intervention
  3. Biologically Based Therapy
  4. Manipulative Methods
  5. Energy Therapy
See also

Rolfing is an alternative medical treatment marketed by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.[1] The Institute states that Rolfing is a "holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organize(s) the whole body in gravity".[1][2] Rolfing is the most publicly known brand[1] of Structural Integration and is essentially identical to it.[3]

There is insufficient evidence to claim that Rolfing is effective for the treatment of any health condition[4] and it has been characterized as a pseudoscience.[5]


  • History and development 1
  • Theory and practice 2
  • Effectiveness and reception 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

History and development

Esalen Institute, where she created a loyal following of students and practitioners.[6] Esalen was the epicenter of the Human Potential Movement, allowing Rolf to exchange ideas with many of their leaders, including Fritz Perls.[7][8] In 1971 she founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.[9] The school has been based in Boulder, Colorado since 1972.

Structural Integration incorporates a number of varied techniques and theories including osteopathy,[10] (including cranial osteopathy),[6] yoga,[6][11] and Alfred Korzybski's general semantics.[10]

In addition to the Rolf Institute, whose graduates can use the term "Certified Rolfer", a number of other schools of Structural Integration certify "Practitioners of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration". A professional membership organization exists called the International Association of Structural Integration. These schools include the Guild for Structural Integration,[7] Hellerwork Structural Integration,[7][12][13] Aston Patterning,[7][12] SOMA,[12] KMI,[1] and over a dozen other Structural Integration schools.[1]

Rolfers and some experts in alternative medicine describe Rolfing as somatic education and use terms such as "bodywork" to describe the hands-on portion of the process.[13] [14] [15] Some factions of the massage industry claim that Rolfing is a type of massage.[3] The massage tradition has drawn significantly from Rolfing, with some of Ida Rolf's students leaving to become prominent teachers of massage.[6] [12]

Theory and practice

The primary goal of Rolfing is to improve the alignment and movement of the body, in accordance with Ida Rolf's ideas about optimum human function. Rolfing is typically performed in a progression of 10 sessions, sometimes called "the recipe", which is claimed to provide a systematic approach to address these goals.[16] The purpose is to educate the body to have better alignment within gravity.[10][17][18] Rolfers manipulate the fascia until they believe it is operating in conjunction with the muscles in a more optimal relationship.[19][20] In addition to physical manipulation of tissue, Rolfing uses a combination of active and passive movement retraining.[17]

Rolf theorized that "bound up" fasciae (connective tissues) can restrict muscles from functioning correctly. She aimed to separate the fibers of bound up fasciae manually to loosen them and allow effective movement. She claimed to have found an association between emotions and the soft tissue, which is not supported by scientific studies.[21][22]

Rolfing was often considered painful in the early years, however the technique has evolved to become more gentle yet precise.[12] For adults, there may be moments of intense sensation during a session or mild soreness afterward. The technique can be done gently enough for children and the elderly.[12] Rolf believed that fascia tightens as a protective mechanism, so she thought an aggressive approach could be counter-productive.[10]

Effectiveness and reception

Rolfing is of no known benefit in treating disease or psychological conditions. However, "Rolfing has a physiologic impact on the peripheral nervous system and on myofascial structures. Important clinical outcome measures, such as pain levels and function, have not been looked at specifically, however, in clinical trials." [4][22]

The American Cancer Society say that the deep soft tissue manipulations of Rolfing are a "concern" if practiced on people with cancer.[23]

Skeptics have included Rolfing in lists of unproven alternative health methods that they consider quackery, based on a lack of scientific evidence as well as unproven assessment and treatment methods.[24][25][26]

On The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 Mehmet Oz likened Rolfing to having someone do yoga for you.[27]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Myers, Thomas W. (2004). "Structural integration -- Developments in Ida Rolf's 'Recipe'-- I". Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 8 (2): 131–42.  
  2. ^ "About Rolfing". Archived from the original on 2005-02-10. 
  3. ^ a b Sherman, Karen J.; Dixon, Marian W.; Thompson, Diana; Cherkin, Daniel C. (2006). "Development of a taxonomy to describe massage treatments for musculoskeletal pain".  
  4. ^ a b Jones, Tracey A. (2004). "Rolfing". Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America 15 (4): 799–809, vi.  
  5. ^ Cordón, Luis (2005). Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. p. 218.  
  6. ^ a b c d Stillerman, Elaine (2009). Modalities for Massage and Bodywork.  
  7. ^ a b c d Claire, Thomas (1995). Bodywork: What Type of Massage to Get and How to Make the Most of It.  
  8. ^ Perls, Frederick (1969). In and Out of the Garbage Pail. Real People Press. 
  9. ^ "Business Search (search for 'Rolf Institute')". Secretary of State, CA. 
  10. ^ a b c d Salvo, Susan G. (2012). Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice (4th ed.). Elsevier Saunders. p. 423.  
  11. ^ Stirling, Isabel (2006). Zen Pioneer: The Life & Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki. Shoemaker & Hoard. p. 8.  
  12. ^ a b c d e f Knaster, Mirka (1996). Discovering the Body's Wisdom: A Comprehensive Guide to More Than Fifty Mind-Body Practices.  
  13. ^ a b Levine, Andrew (1998). The Bodywork and Massage Sourcebook.  
  14. ^ Cassar, Mario-Paul (2004). Handbook of Clinical Massage: A Complete Guide for Students and Practitioners (2nd ed.).  
  15. ^ Thackery, Ellyn; Harris, Madeline, eds. (2003). The Gale Encyclopedia Of Mental Disorders.  
  16. ^ Deutsch, Judith E. (2008). "The Ida Rolf Method of Structural Integration". In Deutsch, Judith E. Complementary Therapies for Physical Therapy: A Clinical Decision-Making Approach.  
  17. ^ a b Schultz, Richard Louis; Feitis, Rosemary (1996). The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and Physical Reality.  
  18. ^ Baer, Hans (2004). Toward an Integrative Medicine: Merging Alternative Therapies with Biomedicine. Rowman Altamira. p. 164.  
  19. ^ Daniels, Rick; Nicoll, Leslie, eds. (2011). "Ch. 14: Complementary and Alternative Therapies". Contemporary Medical-Surgical Nursing 1 (2nd ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 306.  
  20. ^ Rolf, Ida. Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being. p. 15.  
  21. ^  
  22. ^ a b "Rolfing". The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. Penguin. 2009.  
  23. ^ Ades TB, ed. (2009). Bodywork. American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies (2nd ed.) ( 
  24. ^ Beyerstein, Barry. (1995). Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience. Victoria, BC: Center for Curriculum and Professional Development.
  25. ^ Agin, Dan. (2006). Junk Science: An Overdue Indictment of Government, Industry, and Faith Groups That Twist Science for Their Own Gain. St. Martin's Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-312-37480-1
  26. ^ Shapiro, Rose. (2008). Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All. Vintage Books. p. 2. ISBN 0-09-952286-1
  27. ^ Considine, Austin (6 October 2010). "Rolfing, excruciatingly helpful".  

External links

  • Rolf Institute website
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