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Manipulative and body-based methods - edit
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[edit]

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.[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[edit]

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[edit]

In 2015 the Australian Government's Department of Health published the results of a review of alternative therapies that sought to determine if any were suitable for being covered by health insurance; rolfing was one of 17 therapies evaluated for which no clear evidence of effectiveness was found.[23]

The American Cancer Society say that the deep soft tissue manipulations of Rolfing are a "concern" if practiced on people with cancer.[24]

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.[25][26][27]

On The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2007 Mehmet Oz likened Rolfing to having someone do yoga for you.[28]

See also[edit]


  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. doi:10.1016/S1360-8592(03)00088-3. 
  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". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 6: 24. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-24. PMC 1544351. PMID 16796753. 
  4. ^ Jones, Tracey A. (2004). "Rolfing". Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America 15 (4): 799–809, vi. doi:10.1016/j.pmr.2004.03.008. PMID 15458753. 
  5. ^ Cordón, Luis (2005). Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-313-32457-3. According to Rolfing theory, memories of traumatic experiences are stored in various parts of the body (as "muscle memory"), blocking the free flow of "vital energy," and the proper sort of massage can release them, thus restoring the proper flow and integrating mind and body... There is no support in psychological literature for the idea of traumatic experiences becoming repressed in the form of muscle memory, and so the basic ideas of Rolfing certainly fall into the category of pseudoscience. 
  6. ^ a b c d Stillerman, Elaine (2009). Modalities for Massage and Bodywork. Mosby. pp. 152, 157, 329–345. ISBN 032305255X. 
  7. ^ a b c d Claire, Thomas (1995). Bodywork: What Type of Massage to Get and How to Make the Most of It. William Morrow and Co. pp. 40–56. ISBN 9781591202325. 
  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. ISBN 1437719775. 
  11. ^ Stirling, Isabel (2006). Zen Pioneer: The Life & Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki. Shoemaker & Hoard. p. 8. ISBN 9781593761103. 
  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. Bantam. pp. 195–208. ISBN 9780307575500. 
  13. ^ a b Levine, Andrew (1998). The Bodywork and Massage Sourcebook. Lowell House. pp. 209–234. ISBN 9780737300987. 
  14. ^ Cassar, Mario-Paul (2004). Handbook of Clinical Massage: A Complete Guide for Students and Practitioners (2nd ed.). Churchill Livingstone. pp. 48–49. ISBN 9780443073496. 
  15. ^ Thackery, Ellyn; Harris, Madeline, eds. (2003). The Gale Encyclopedia Of Mental Disorders. Gale. p. 153–7. ISBN 9780787657697. 
  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. Saunders. pp. 266–7. ISBN 0721601111. 
  17. ^ a b Schultz, Richard Louis; Feitis, Rosemary (1996). The Endless Web: Fascial Anatomy and Physical Reality. North Atlantic Books. p. 33. ISBN 1556432283. 
  18. ^ Baer, Hans (2004). Toward an Integrative Medicine: Merging Alternative Therapies with Biomedicine. Rowman Altamira. p. 164. ISBN 9780759103023. 
  19. ^ Daniels, Rick; Nicoll, Leslie, eds. (2011). "Ch. 14: Complementary and Alternative Therapies". Contemporary Medical-Surgical Nursing 1 (2nd ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 306. ISBN 1439058660. 
  20. ^ Rolf, Ida. Reestablishing the Natural Alignment and Structural Integration of the Human Body for Vitality and Well-Being. p. 15. ISBN 0892813350. [non-primary source needed]
  21. ^ Carroll, Robert Todd (22 January 2014). "Rolfing". The Skeptic's Dictionary (Online ed.). ISBN 9780471272427. Retrieved 2014-03-03. 
  22. ^ "Rolfing". The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology. Penguin. 2009. ISBN 9780141030241 – via Credo Reference. 
  23. ^ Baggoley C (2015). "Review of the Australian Government Rebate on Natural Therapies for Private Health Insurance" (PDF). Australian Government – Department of Health. Lay summaryGavura, S. Australian review finds no benefit to 17 natural therapies. Science-Based Medicine. (19 November 2015). 
  24. ^ Ades TB, ed. (2009). Bodywork. American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies (2nd ed.) (American Cancer Society). pp. 167–171. ISBN 9780944235713. 
  25. ^ Beyerstein, Barry. (1995). Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience. Victoria, BC: Center for Curriculum and Professional Development.
  26. ^ 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
  27. ^ Shapiro, Rose. (2008). Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All. Vintage Books. p. 2. ISBN 0-09-952286-1
  28. ^ Considine, Austin (6 October 2010). "Rolfing, excruciatingly helpful". New York Times. Retrieved 6 October 2010. 

External links[edit]