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