First popular in the 1970s, Rolfing is a trend again. Created by Ida Pauline Rolf, a biochemist from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University, Rolfing isn't your typical massage.

According to the Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration (RISI), the therapy is described as a way to manipulate or restructure your fascia-the connective tissue around muscles. So rather than simply loosening tight muscles through strategic rubbing, Rolfing® works to remedy the body's pains by restructuring tissues that have become misaligned from environmental factors, such as gravity, labor, and posture.

How Rolfing Works

You may think that this nuanced form of therapy is just a variation on Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue Massage, but if Rolfing resembles any form of therapy available today, it would be that of your chiropractor. Much like a chiropractor works to manipulate and move bones into their proper alignment, Rolfing is based on the same premise-except the focus is on muscles and tendons. According to the RISI, you can think of Rolfing's goal as being to "align and balance the body's components until the entire system is a smoothly functioning coordinated whole."

This, in part, explains why the Rolfing experience is characterized by pain and discomfort at first. Muscle and fascia are stubborn materials—especially if they are marked by scar tissue. So, depending on the patient, a Rolfer® (the practioner of Rolfing) may need to contort, gouge, knead, and squeeze muscles to move the ligaments to the proper position.

Does Rolfing Work?

There is no empirical evidence for you to hang your hat on as to whether or not Rolfing works to remedy pain. After a 2007 endorsement by Oprah Winfrey, many clinics are now seeing an upswing in requests.

Although there is no reliable data touting its benefits, the RISI claims that their procedure packs the following upsides:

  • Remedies back and neck pain
  • Relaxes stiff muscles that come as a result of sports, occupational, or repetitive stress injuries
  • Improves posture
  • Improves range of motion

Before You Start

Before you make an appointment with your local Rolfing practitioner, you may want to talk it over with your physician. She will be able to provide you with the necessary information concerning your condition and what Rolfing can (and can't) do for you.


For more information on Rolfing, visit:

The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration