Rolfing in Austin: Rolfing’s Impact on Joint Pain Relief

Photo courtesy of

Most of the joint pain people experience stems from the connective tissue of the joint, part of a seamless interconnected tissue web that contracts under strain. Rolfing® Structural Integration helps to remove the restrictions in the soft tissue that impede joint range of motion by manually softening and sculpting the body’s connective tissue or fascia three dimensionally so that the muscles, tendons and ligaments are balanced. Balanced tension throughout the body can take strain off of joints so that they are free to move without pain. Providing natural pain relief can be a benefit of Rolfing therapy and movement education proposed by a Certified Rolfer™.

The Anatomy of a Joint

A joint is actually the space between two bones, separated by fluid and cartilage, encased in soft tissue ligamentous sleeve connectors (see the white structures in the image above). Ligaments are sensory organs that evoke reflexive and synergistic activation of muscles and ensure that the bones associated with the joint travel in their prescribed anatomical tracks, prevent separation of the bones from each other, and therefore provide joint stability.

The Fascial Net

Photo courtesy of

“Fascia is the organ of posture…the body is a web of fascia.”–Dr. Ida P. Rolf

Fascia is the continuous connective tissue in the body that has been likened to a complex spider web, a fish net, or the yarn in a sweater. Fascia surrounds and permeates every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and organ, all the way down to a cellular level. A tight restriction (strain caused by an injury, trauma, improper posture, etc.) in one area of the body can create tension throughout the net, causing even more tension on distant structures or joints.Restrictions in the fascial net can pull the body out of alignment, compress joints and discs, cause pain, immobility or inflexibility, and create weakness in joints to the point that they are vulnerable to injury or re-injury.

A Rolfer’s Vision

Rolfing practitioners strategically weave their hands three-dimensionally, from superficial to deep, throughout the fascial web to soften the restrictions that can pull joints out of alignment. Rolfing Structural Integration seeks to rebalance the body’s structure by gently sculpting the soft tissues that pull on bones and joints throughout the entire 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.

Rolfers are highly trained therapists in structural alignment and functional movement of every anatomical segment of the body; they are able to see the whole picture by looking at the body as a seamless interconnected relationship of parts. They use diagnostic methods to scientifically identify if the joints are moving properly and gently and artistically lessen the connective tissue restrictions that impede normal joint function, providing pain relief. With this being said, Rolfing can help with joint inflammation and pain in its goal to re-balance and integrate the whole body.


1. Solomonow, M. (2007, March). Ligaments: A source of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Structural Integration, 35(1), 18-28. Retrieved from

2. Threlkeld, J. (1992, December). The effects of manual therapy on connective tissue. PhysicalTherapy, 72(12), 893-902. Retrieved from


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

Rolfing in Austin: Common Types of Structural Misalignments

Image Credit: Erik Dalton

Here are just two examples of common structural misalignments that Rolfing® Structural Integration can help correct.

Forward Head Posture

Forward Head Posture (FHP) is the formal name for slouched, stooped posture of the shoulders where the head is forward from the line of gravity, or plumb line. If the back of your ears are not aligned with your shoulders in profile, or if your head makes it through a doorway before your chest does, chances are you have some degree of FHP.

Image Credit: Back Vitalizer

Common symptoms of FHP appear as tension in the jaw, upper back, neck pain, ”knots” in the shoulders, breathing difficulties, shooting pain down the arms, and various types of headaches.

“Head in forward posture can add up to thirty pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine. This can pull the entire spine out of alignment.”1.

Over a series of sessions, Rolfing works to systematically achieve balance of all the structures that create a stable, adaptable, and supportive spine. Since the body adapts to FHP by shortening and stiffening some muscles, and stretching and weakening other muscles, learning proper sitting mechanics in a Rolfing therapy session can also be very important to correcting and eliminating FHP in your everyday activities.

Image Credit: Health Blogger

Sway Back:

Also known as hyperlordosis, is when the pelvis is not horizontal to the ground in standing and is tilted too far forward causing excessive curve in the lumbar spine.

Common symptoms can appear as low back pain, tension in the hamstrings or hips, sciatica, spinal disc problems, and fatigue in standing for long periods. This posture is also very common post pregnancy.

Strengthening the back muscles, abdominals, and hip rotators may improve their function and reduce the symptoms of sway back, but won’t necessarily improve your posture because strength training these areas cannot rotate a pelvis backward. Rolfing practitioners work with the muscles and connective tissue in the front and backs of the hips and thighs to correct this misalignment and free the adhesions to allow the pelvis to derotate back into alignment.

Image Credit: Body By Heather

Often times the two structural misalignment examples above are seen together, creating a host of structural compensations, stress-related illnesses, and the potential for injury.

The picture to the left is an example of before and after the 10-session series of Rolfing Structural Integration. Can you see Forward Head Posture and Sway Back in the “Before” picture? In the “After” picture?

Long term structural deviations and abnormal postures create muscle strain and chronic pain conditions leading up to disc herniations, arthritis, and pinched nerves. Rolfing Structural Integration can improve the structural misalignments that lead to the deterioration of your health with a gentle and intelligent touch.

Contact me today for a free consultation!


1. Dalton, E., Ph.D. (2011). Forward Head Posture The 42 Pound Head [Head Forward Posture].

Retrieved December 18, 2011, from Freedom From Pain Institute website:


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

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

Gina Kilgus, Certified Rolfer, LMT, Austin, TXHaving been a Licensed Massage Therapist for over 13 years and now a Certified Rolfer™, I can say from experience that the difference between the two manual therapies is striking. Yes, they have similarities such as having the ability to loosen deeper, tighter tissues, reduce stress and promote relaxation and well being. However, Rolfing® Structural Integration can be defined as a systematic approach that attempts to restore balance and alignment to the whole body for long lasting pain relief. Deep Tissue Massage is different from Rolfing in that it tends to focus on techniques for each individual muscle strain, it is temporary relief, and does not address or release the system wide compensation patterns, or the root cause of your pain, dis-function, or “stress”.

The Therapeutic Process
A standard Deep Tissue massage session is usually a one hour, full body treatment. The results are immediate, and there is not a required specific number of sessions. The amount of sessions recommended really depends on the wants/needs of the client. The strategy of therapeutic process is determined by the client’s reports of symptoms of pain or stress.
Rolfing therapy requires a specific number of sessions to work the entire body. Treatment consists of ten 60-90 minute sessions, spaced one to three weeks apart, depending on the client’s needs. Each session strategically builds upon the other, and the results are cumulative even after the Ten Series process has ended. After a complete series of Rolfing Structural Integration, some clients return, after a waiting period of three to six months, for tune-up sessions that help to maintain the benefits of the body being better balanced and alleviating discomfort from emerging deeper issues.

What distinguishes Rolfing Structural Integration from Deep Tissue massage is not necessarily the medium in which we work, but the goal of our work – which is to reshape and reorganize the human structure. Using clearly defined principles in a systematic and consistent manner, a Rolfer manipulates tissue in order to lessen the effects of the constant pull of gravity. In Deep Tissue massages, tight tissue and toxins are released locally, on a table, often with heavy, direct, stagnant pressure. The benefits are increased blood and oxygen flow, resulting in tissue repair and pain management. In Rolfing, systemic connective tissue patterns are lightly lengthened and loosened slowly-layer by layer, separating the layers that adhere to muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury. Rolfing therapy and education is also received in sitting and upright movement, which in terms help improve posture, flexibility, neural programming, self-awareness, coordination, and athletic performance. Since physical problems are actually the symptoms of chronic postural restrictions, compensations, and habitual patterns, clients can see long term improvement and pain resolution from old and new injuries, surgeries, neck pain, back pain, and other various disorders with Rolfing.

Movement Education
Rolfing is not just a therapy involving direct manipulation of soft tissue. Integrating the newly changed structures into a functional, moving holistic body is a unique, indirect and educational aspect of the work. Deep Tissue Massage often does not include movement education, such as working with the client in motion, let alone off the table. Benefits of integrating postural and anatomical cues with the client off the table, in gravity, can help the client bring the experience of their Rolfing sessions into their daily lives whether at the office, with their favorite musical instrument, or in their current sport, resulting in improvement in performance, posture, stamina with less chance of injury due to improper use of their bodies.

In summary, Deep Tissue massage can be therapeutic, relaxing, short in commitment and help aid in blood flow and localized muscle recovery, but it does not address the body’s overall alignment, movement, nor does it have a method to address structural and habitual compensations. Rolfing Structural Integration is a therapy quite different and unique in its process of evaluating the whole body, its anatomical segments, and integrating the improved relationships into physical balance with the gravitational field. Certified Rolfers are also postural educators, imparting insights to clients to increase their awareness and understanding of their bodies, for improved posture, flexibility, performance, aid in injuries and provide long lasting pain relief. If your body feels stuck, you’ve tried various forms of health care, stretching, etc. and are still experiencing chronic pain, or if you’d like to improve your game, or win the war against gravity, Rolfing is right for you. Try a session today!

“This is an important concept:  that [Structural Integration] practitioners are integrating something; we are not restoring something.  This puts us in a different class from all other therapists that I know of.  It takes us out of the domain designated by the word “therapy,” and puts us in the domain designated by the word “education.”  It puts our thinking into education: how can we use these ideas behind Structural Integration?  How do we put a body together so that it’s a unit, acting, energy efficient unit?  One of the differences between Structural Integration Practitioners and practitioners of medicine, osteopathy, chiropractic, naturopathy, etc., is that the latter are all relieving symptoms.  They make no effort to put together elements into a more efficient energy system.” -Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D.


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