|Manipulative and body-based methods - edit|
Rolfing is an alternative medical treatment marketed by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. The Institute states that Rolfing is a "holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organize(s) the whole body in gravity". Rolfing is the most publicly known brand of Structural Integration and is essentially identical to it.
There is no evidence Rolfing is effective for the treatment of any health condition.
History and development
Ida Pauline Rolf began working on clients in New York in the 1930s with the premise that the human structure could be organized "in relation to gravity". In the 1950s Rolf was teaching her work across the United States, and in the mid-1960s she began teaching at Esalen Institute, where she created a loyal following of students and practitioners. Esalen was the epicenter of the Human Potential Movement, allowing Rolf to exchange ideas with many of their leaders, including Fritz Perls. In 1971 she founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. The school has been based in Boulder, Colorado since 1972.
In addition to the Rolf Institute, whose gradates 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, Hellerwork Structural Integration, Aston Patterning, SOMA, KMI, and over a dozen other Structural Integration schools.
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.   Some factions of the massage industry claim that Rolfing is a type of massage. The massage tradition has drawn significantly from Rolfing, with some of Ida Rolf's students leaving to become prominent teachers of massage. 
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. The purpose is to educate the body to have better alignment within gravity. Rolfers manipulate the fascia until they believe it is operating in conjunction with the muscles in a more optimal relationship. In addition to physical manipulation of tissue, Rolfing uses a combination of active and passive movement retraining.
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.
Rolfing was often considered painful in the early years, however the technique has evolved to become more gentle yet precise. 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. Rolf believed that fascia tightens as a protective mechanism, so she thought an aggressive approach could be counter-productive.
Effectiveness and reception
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 questionable assessment and treatment methods.
- Feldenkrais Method
- Alexander Technique
- Alternative medicine
- Posture (psychology)
- Mind–body interventions
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