(Investigator 193, 2020 July)


Rolfing, or Structural Integration, is a system developed by biochemist Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., (1896-1979). In the 1950s, Rolf was teaching what she called Structural Integration in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. The Rolf Institute was established in 1970, and in 1977 Ida Rolf wrote a major work, Rolfing: The Integration of the Human Structure, describing her modality in detail.


Rolf believed that as human beings evolved in the gravitational field of the Earth they developed a general structure, a muscular system and a physiology related to this energy field. To profit from the flow of gravity, a man must be so organised that he operates as though he existed symmetrically around such a gravity line. The causes for the deviation from the vertical plane was thought to be the result of physical accidents or have an emotional origin, the latter in accord with many other body-mind theorists such as Wilhelm Reich, F. M. Alexander and Moshe Feldenkrais.


To achieve what she considered to be the ultimate relationship between a human body and the gravitational force, Rolf developed a technique whereby a trained practitioner attempted to change and align the physical structure of a human body in order to improve the physiological and psychological functioning of the person.
It is a system of vigorous massage of the fibrous tissue between the muscles and blood vessels to correct any deviations from the vertical alignment of all the structural segments of the body: the head, the thorax, the pelvis and the legs. The massage technique differs from other methods in so far as the pressure, kneading and rubbing of the muscles is deep and can be quite painful.


While the theory is suspect, the overall result is the release of muscle tension, and the usual feeling of relaxation and well-being associated with other types of massage.

However, some patients have reported considerable discomfort. Olsen (1989), describes an incomplete session so painful that the client had to resign his job. Speaking from personal experience, I am not convinced that my sore neck and shoulder muscles, the result of a Rolf massage, were worth it.


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From: Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics Inc.