The object of Rolfing is to reduce or eliminate pain by releasing restrictions of the fascia, the membrane that encases our organs and muscles. Fascia is a tough membrane that takes some effort to manipulate, which has led to the misconception that Rolfing causes extreme pain. The truth is that deep tissue therapy produces far more discomfort. Rolfing is not meant to be painful.
Thousands of people suffer from chronic pain, and many do not find the relief they need from traditional methods such as medication, massage, or the application of ice and heat. Rolfing Structural Integration has proven beneficial to many clients in relieving their pain. Unfortunately, some sufferers hesitate to try the treatment due to unfounded fear of excruciating discomfort. Although the intensity of Rolfing may vary, the discomfort involved should never exceed the level of the client’s chronic pain.
Rolfing practitioners are mindful of finding the right touch for the tissue involved. Some tissue types, such as scar tissue, may require a more intense Rolfing application, but the goal is always to avoid pain to the greatest degree possible to keep the body from rejecting the movement. Regardless of the intensity of the treatment, the client needs to relax with it. Clients report significant relief from the release of tissues after Rolfing, making them more tolerant of any discomfort during the sessions.
Early Rolfers in the late 1960s and early 1970s knew that pressure applied to the fascia produced pain relief in their clients. At that time, however, there was no scientific awareness of exactly how the fascia changed after manipulation, so early practitioners may have relied more on enthusiasm than knowledge during treatment, causing their clients a higher degree of discomfort than necessary.
Today, Rolfers are aware of the mechanoreceptors within the fascia and are better trained to manipulate the fascia effectively and less painfully. Practitioners know the importance of continuous communication with the client to judge their comfort level and guide necessary adjustments while integrating the tissue. Contemporary Rolfers rightly describe Rolfing in terms of lightness, transformation, and relaxation.