Rolfing is a type of manual postural therapy and movement rehabilitation that works specifically with the fascial system with in the body. Fascia, also called connective tissue, covers every muscle, organ, nerve and bone in the human body and is entirely connected in a web-like structure, right down to the cellular level.
Dr. Ida P. Rolf, PhD, developed her work in the 1960s, calling it structural integration. It was nicknamed “Rolfing,” by her students. Dr. Rolf, a biochemist, noticed that fascia, the white, gunky tissue that most anatomists called packing material, assuming it simply filled in extra space in the body, had a plastic quality to it, much like a plastic grocery bag. If you place your thumb in a plastic bag and stretch it out, the imprint stays there, whereas if you stretch a rubber band, it returns to its original shape as soon as you let go (this is more of an elastic quality).
Rolfing works specifically within the fascial network. Since fascia is entirely connected throughout the body, a snag in one area due to injury, trauma or bad posture can cause a snag that pulls the whole body out of alignment, much the way a snag in a knit sweater can cause the entire garment to become misshapen if you pull on it. Therefore, Rolfing treats the whole body instead of just looking at symptoms because all postural dysfunction is interrelated.
Rolfing brings the skeleton back into alignment, not by working with bones but by working with all of the things that pull on the bones. Think of an old fashioned tent with ropes and wooden pegs that have to be pounded into the ground…if you pull really hard on one rope, the tent will be lopsided, right?
The same is true in your body. If one of the “ropes,” or lines of fascial tension, is too tight, it will pull the bones to which it attaches out of alignment. When your body is crooked, it takes a lot of muscle tension and energy to hold it upright, resulting in physical pain and fatigue.