Rolfing FAQs

What is Fascia?

“Each muscle, each visceral organ is encased in its own fascial wrapping. These wrappings in turn form part of a ubiquitous web that supports as well as enwraps, connects as well as separates, all functional units of the body.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

Fascia has been defined as all of the soft fibrous connective tissues that permeate the human body (Findley and Schleip 2007). From the most superficial layer of our skin to the deepest wrapping within our bones, fascia is a global constitution that forms a continuous three dimensional web throughout the entire body. Amazingly, fascia is the body’s largest sensory organ, affecting every structure and embracing all nerves, bones, arteries, veins, fat, organs and muscles. Sometimes it is thin and wispy, allowing function, sometimes it is thick and fibrous, inhibiting function. Becoming the subject of increasing research and recent studies, the underlying cause or source of many musculoskeletal, neurological, neuromuscular and other health or pain problems can be found in the soft tissue or fascia.

The fascial layer or connective tissue between muscle fibers

Fascia facilitates the many layers of muscle in our body to slide over each other, allowing for smooth uninhibited flexion and extension. Healthy fascia is pliable and hydrated, allowing muscles, tendons, ligaments and even organs to move and function freely and easily. But when fascia is stressed and twisted from injury, trauma, poor postural habits and imbalanced repetitive movement, it becomes short, dense and dehydrated, gluing muscles together and inhibiting normal movement. Shortened fascia compresses joints and viscera and puts stress on nerves, organs, tendons and ligaments. This can result in injury, pain and a host of medical problems.

Fascia’s Role in Structural Integration

Rolfing Structural Integration strives to achieve balanced tone within the myofascial system and to coax the dense fascia back to a soft, pliable state. The results can be vast, including better posture and alignment, more energy, greater flexibility and increased range of motion with less pain and less vulnerability to injury. Dr. Ida Rolf, the founder of Structural Integration, recognized that fascia is plastic in nature: it changes its shape, and conforms to the way we use our bodies. When we move and stretch regularly, our fascia lengthens, stays lubricated, allowing our muscles and joints to function optimally. Likewise, when we are sedentary for long periods of time, our fascia shortens and hardens. We feel stiff, achy and exhausted. Using hands and arms as tools, practitioners of Structural Integration move, layer by layer through the fascial web helping dense fascia return to a healthy, pliable state. Muscles and joints can then function properly, allowing for flexibility and freedom of movement that stretching alone can’t do.

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“Fascia is the organ of posture. Nobody ever says this; all the talk is about muscles. Yet this is a very important concept, and because this is so important, we as Rolfers must understand both the anatomy and physiology, but especially the anatomy of fascia. The body is a web of fascia. A spiderweb is in a plane. This web is in a sphere. We can trace the lines of that web to get an understanding of how what we see in a body works. For example, why, when we work with the superficial fascia does this change the tone of the fascia as a whole?” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

Who Should Receive Rolfing® Structural Integration?

According to Dr. Rolf, all bodies have some degree of disorder and compensation in their structure; therefore she believed that everyone should receive Rolfing Structural Integration. In fact, in her global vision, she imagined a more evolved and structurally efficient human species as a result of Rolfing SI. However, we realize that potential clients need more compelling reasons to undergo this powerful transformative type of bodywork. It is possible to divide those who come to Rolfing SI into two groups. The first and largest group who should consider Rolfing SI are those who have a history of injury or trauma and notice that the effects of their often minor injuries are beginning to interfere with their everyday lives. In many cases these individuals have tried traditional medical treatments or exercise to reduce or counteract the long-term effects of old injuries with a varying degrees of success. This group might include former and current athletes, musicians, performers or those engaged in physically demanding jobs who choose not to accept the notion that the quality of their lives must suffer simply because they are aging. In fact, all adults (and children) of any age who suffer from any limiting physical discomfort can absolutely benefit from Rolfing SI as long as the pains themselves are in the neuromuscular system and not signs of a nervous disorder or a deeper pathology. For most of us, Rolfing SI combined with appropriate movement therapy, such as Rolf Movement® Integration, and balanced movement exercises offers a long-lasting solution for connective tissue problems. The second group are those who are on a spiritual path and who find that their physical limitations prevent them from attaining a higher level of spiritual or emotional peace. Frequently, many on this path assume that the body is something to be transcended rather than something to be honored, loved and lived in. For these individuals, Rolfing SI can serve as an educational resource which allows them a more intimate and comfortable relationship with their physical body, which in turn allows a greater ability to experience serenity from within. Interestingly enough, as the body transforms physically it transforms on other planes as well, so that, while Rolfing SI’s primary focus is the muscular and connective tissue system, it frequently has an even more dramatic effect in seemingly unrelated areas such as the emotional and spiritual. Exactly how this happens is still a matter of much debate and speculation. However, the results of the work were of much greater importance than the how or why for Dr. Rolf. The genius of Rolfing SI is that it can effect so many people in so many ways, on so many levels and it continues to reveal new possibilities for such a rich diversity of individuals.

“Rolfers make a life study of relating bodies and their fields to the earth and its gravity field, and we so organize the body that the gravity field can reinforce the body’s energy field. This is our primary concept. This is the gospel of Rolfing: When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself. As people come to Rolfers with their aches and their pains, we can see where their bodies are literally offering blocks to the gravitational forces. The gravitational force is immense and their resistance isn’t much good except to close the body down, compress it. Sometimes the block has been put into the physical picture by a physical trauma. This block is in the actual structure, in the flesh of the body. Then there is the kind of block that is basically emotional.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

How Far Apart Should Sessions Be Scheduled During a Ten Series?

Most clients schedule Rolfing sessions a week to three weeks apart. Depending on your schedule, my scheduling availability and financial considerations, sessions can be spaced farther apart but consistency and a proactive approach to homework will be more important. Sessions 1-3, 4-7, and 8-10 are like mini series within the ten-series. If you need to take a break or go on vacation between sessions, I think it is beneficial to receive the above sessions closer together, and then take your break after session three and after session seven. It is highly recommended to take an extended break (about three to six months) after session ten. It has been shown that clients structurally reorganize, process, and integrate to a much greater degree during this three to six month time after their ten-series. However, I am flexible on this and allow for emergencies and injuries. I believe everybody’s needs are different and strongly encourage the client to determine for themselves when they are done with their ten-series (perhaps it’s a fourteen-series!) and when they should take this extended break. Post Ten Rolfing sessions and series are available, as well as regularly scheduled or “as needed” tune-up sessions. One to three sessions a year are highly recommended to maintain alignment and the benefits of the Ten Series. Any Rolfing done beyond this allows for deeper processes and more integration with the earth’s gravitational field.

“Integration happens when two or more things can occupy the same space and time. When the human body is energetically shut down, energy does not move through, rather it loads the body and increases the rate of entropy (collapse). When the physical body becomes more aligned and more integrated, it allows more energy to flow through the connective tissue. As more energy flows through the connective tissue, it creates a larger bio field around the human body. The integrated human body will then be more available for integration with the earth’s gravitational field, helping to slow the rate of entropy (collapse).”

What Do I Wear During a Rolfing Session?

Rolfing is not done in the nude. Be prepared to work in your underwear, bra and underwear or two-piece swimwear (for the ladies). Boxer shorts, thongs and sheer garments are not encouraged. Please let me know if you would like to wear something different and we can discuss comfortable options.

Common Benefits of Rolfing Structural Integration

Note: this in no way is a guarantee, but to give you as sense of what is possible, Rolfers frequently see these benefits in clients.

  • Chronic stress and pain reduction
  • Injury prevention and recovery
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Improved stamina
  • Improved posture and gait
  • Healthier appearance
  • Healing of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Weight lost and cellulite reduction
  • Enhanced circulation
  • Improved digestive and organ function
  • Chronic fatigue release and healing
  • Fibromyalgia healing
  • Healing and prevention of repetitive motion injuries
  • Increased flexibility and coordination
  • Chronic headaches disappearing
  • Back pain healing
  • Surgery rehabilitation
  • TemporoMandibular Joint pain elimination
  • Emotional stress transforming into relaxation
  • More vital energy
  • Enhanced wellbeing
  • Improved relaxation and sleep
  • Greater enjoyment of the body
  • Changes that can last for years

If your problems or goals fall into any of these categories, Rolfing SI may be beneficial for you.

How is Rolfing different from Chiropractic and Massage?

Rolfers strategically weave their hands from superficial to deep throughout the fascial web to soften the restrictions that can pull joints out of alignment. Like chiropractic work, Rolfing seeks to rebalance the body’s structure—but while chiropractors focus on bone alignment and individual spinal joints using high velocity thrusting methods, Rolfers gently sculpt the soft tissues that pull on bones and joints throughout the body. Unless the tension and strain in the soft tissue (fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments) is addressed, the bones will continue to be pulled out of alignment (i.e. making it appear to have one leg longer than the other or one shoulder higher than the other). Rolfing therapy uses diagnostic methods, soft tissue techniques, and movement education to treat joint restrictions that are a part of the overall body pattern of the individual to restore structural integration. The goal is to achieve balanced tension throughout the entire body, which allows the bones to fall back into their proper relationships naturally. This being said, chiropractic work is made more effective and spinal adjustments longer lasting with the addition of Rolfing. Massage for the body can be described much like what an oil change is to a car. Metaphorically speaking, Rolfing for the body would be more like getting framework done to your car! Massage is also a broad term that refers to many different styles, techniques of bodywork, and educational differences. The goals of most types of massage focus on increasing blood flow and relaxing individual, strained muscles. Rolfing is very much like graduate school for massage therapists and is a form of or catagory of Structural Integration that works to realign the entire body to withstand the constant force of gravity, so it functions as a better working and feeling unit. Some deep tissue massage therapists or practitioners of structural bodywork work to release local patterns of structural strain, but is not usually done as part of a integrative strategy or a 50 year old method to balance whole body according to gravity. Although massage therapy is relaxing, you may find the same area bothering you again shortly after you leave the office. This is because the area that hurts is often a compensatory or secondary issue, a symptom of the root cause of pain which massage doesn’t address. Rolfing clients are not in the nude like massage clients. Rolfing clients wear their under garments during sessions, perform movement, even get up off of the table to sit, stand, or walk to bring the changes of their structure into gravity and their everyday activities.

Related articles: Rolfing in Austin: How Rolfing is Different from Deep Tissue Massage

“I’m not interested in fixing bits and pieces. I’m after a larger game: contributing to the evolution of human beings.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

What is the Difference Between Structural Integration and Rolfing?

Rolfing is a trademarked and reserved term for practitioners of Rolfing Structural Integration that have graduated from the Rolf Institute®. Anyone who has completed training at any of the other schools of structural integration may not use the terms, Rolfing, Rolfer, or Rolfed at any time. Rolfing is the original brand name for the process of structural integration, much like Kleenex® is the main brand and leader of facial tissues.

Is Rolfing Painful?

Ida Rolf_with_Child

This is a common misconception. It is very interesting to me that most people who have the opinion that Rolfing is extremely painful have never actually experienced the work firsthand! When I changed careers from Deep Tissue massage therapy to Rolfing Structural Integration, my pressure level and intensity decreased by at least 50% because I simply just could not feel the tissue changing or where I really needed to work by applying that much pressure. Much of Rolfing’s reputation for pain came from the early days when it was first gaining public recognition and it was sought after to, in a way, purge the mind/body of trauma. Since that time, the process has greatly evolved. As far as the actual experience is concerned, the area being worked will vary in sensation and feeling depending upon the severity of layers of chronic stress, injuries, hydration levels and other factors specific to your individual body. Feelings can range from pleasurable to honest-to-goodness discomfort. Fortunately, the work always proceeds at your own level and pace. Nothing is ever forced, and skillful Rolfing never feels sharply painful or invasive. When discomfort occurs, many clients describe it as a “good hurt” or a “nice pain” that the body wants and needs. Others say Rolfing significantly reduces the pain experienced in their daily lives or increases athletic functioning to such an extent, that discomfort during the session is well worth the trade. Unlike deep tissue massage, Rolfing is a participatory process. You may be asked to “breathe” into tissue to help it release, to make small movements under the Rolfing practitioner’s hands, or to “stretch out of the place” being worked. Participating in the movement and communicating with your Rolfer about it, feels very different than having deep work “done to you.” Additionally, Rolfing proceeds slowly and deliberately; there is ample time to relax into the pressure and enjoy it. As an additional safeguard, I instruct clients to gauge the pressure from 1 to 10, and to notify me if I ever pass a 7. After the first session, clients often comment that the work was nothing like they’d heard it would be, and are surprised at how good it feels!

“Go around the problem: get the system sufficiently resilient so that it is able to change, and it will change. It doesn’t have to be forced. It’s that forcing that you will have to avoid at all costs.”-Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

Does Insurance Cover Rolfing?

Rolfing therapy may be covered by your health insurance. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has reimbursed some of my clients up to 100%! Many times a letter of medical necessity is required from your doctor or chiropractor, so it is best to check with your insurance provider to identify and meet their requirements. Sometimes it’s a matter of wording — “myofascial release” or “neuromuscular re-education” may be terms your provider prefers. I can supply you with a receipt, upon payment, with the medical billing code for “Manual Therapy” (97140) to be submitted for reimbursement. Currently, I do not bill insurance companies. Check to see if your employer provides flexible spending options (sometimes called a “medical spending account” or “cafeteria plan”). These plans set aside a portion of your annual income tax free to be used for medical, dental and childcare expenses. Plans such as these usually cover some form of manual therapy and don’t always require a referral. Expect to see more FSA companies accepting Rolfing or manual therapy in the future, many already do. If you are inquiring about using your insurance, Flex Spending Account or Benefits Card to pay for your Rolfing sessions, it may be beneficial to first contact your provider with the following questions so that the process goes smoothly: 1.) Does my plan cover “manual therapy” from a service provider (licensed massage therapist) outside the network? 2.) Do I need medical necessity/written diagnosis from a medical professional prior to my service appointment to file it as a claim? 3. How do I go about this preauthorization process/what do I need to submit? What is needed from my doctor and/or massage therapist to submit a claim? Many people use funds from their Health Savings Account to pay for Rolfing sessions. If you are self-employed, please contact your tax adviser for tax exemption requirements.

Is Rolfing Recommended During Pregnancy?

The Rolfing Ten Series is most effective pre and/or post pregnancy and is not recommended during pregnancy. However, single sessions during pregnancy can be very helpful and beneficial for you as well as the baby. I simply ask for written letter of consent from your doctor prior to your first appointment.

How Does Rolfing SI Affect Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and Depression?

Often a connection between these four debilitating conditions is the physical exhaustion caused by a body being stuck in hyper-arousal or survival. Anyone exposed to constant stress will eventually acclimatize to the stress. You learn to adapt emotionally by becoming accustomed to it, and physically sustaining an alert status. No matter how strong you are, eventually the continuous stress will wear you down. How it shows will often be one or more of the above conditions. To heal, your body must first leave the survival state, the revved-up state. Until your body feels safe, it will be allocating its resources to survival. Rolfing SI has the ability to deeply release the stress and the self-perpetuating survival response stored in the tissue by regulating the nervous system. Once the body comes down, the resources directed to survival can be used for self-healing. Your body can then rest and heal.

“… no situation exists in a human which a psychologist would diagnose as a feeling of insecurity or inadequacy unless it is accompanied by a physical situation which bears witness to the fact that the gravitational support is inadequate.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.

What About the Emotional and Psychological Effects of Rolfing?

It is impossible to touch the physical body without touching the emotional body. All individuals develop compensatory patterns, ways of the body holding and defending itself against a variety of physical and emotional traumas.

For most Rolfers, emotional catharsis is not something consciously desired nor intended for their clients. Rather, the person is approached with reverence and compassion. When emotionally charged areas of the body have been identified by the client, or intuited by the practitioner, they are normally accessed slowly and with constant communication between the Rolfer and the client.

Sometimes, however, repressed memories or experiences will arise for which the client and the Rolfer may not have any advanced warning. In this situation, the goal of the Rolfer is to provide a safe container for their release, taking the requisite time to integrate the experience into the physical and emotional body in a way that promotes maximum resolution and minimal trauma to the system.

Rolfer’s are trained to ease a client through such an experience but are not trained as therapists. The nature and quality of accessing and resolution of emotionally charged material may be the most profound portion of a client’s Rolfing experience. However, the client should not enter the Rolfing process with anticipation of such a major release but should remember that the Rolfer’s area of expertise is integrating and balancing connective tissue. The emotional component, as attractive or dreaded as it may be, remains an ancillary aspect of the Rolfing process and not its primary intention.

Gina Kilgus | Certified Rolfer | 4412 Spicewood Springs Rd #402| Austin, TX | 78759 | Schedule a Session