Does Rolfing Work? If So, How?
When I consult with clients, they usually want to know if Rolfing therapy really works, and if so, what is the process by which it gets results. With regards to the question of does Rolfing work, I can answer with a resounding yes! Before and after photos show dramatic changes to posture and physical alignment, and you can read the real-life experiences of Rolfing from actual clients here.
But exactly HOW does Rolfing work? There are many theories that have evolved and changed as we better understand fascia (also called connective tissue) and its interrelation with neurology. Previously, it was believed that the steady, slow pressure applied to fascia created a thixotropic effect, meaning it changed something that was in a solid state to something that was in a gel state, allowing the practitioner to manually shape or sculpt the tissue.
This process wasn’t very pleasant as practitioners used a lot of pressure to achieve their results; however, it did work. Later on, we learned that for thixotropy to actually happen, you’d need the weight of an elephant’s foot. So, obviously this wasn’t actually the process by which changes were taking effect with Rolfing treatments.
So, what was happening? We honestly didn’t know much about fascia until a Rolfer by the name of Robert Schleip braved the world of research to do in-depth, clinical studies on connective tissue. What he learned was absolutely incredible. Fascia contains more proprioceptors – tiny cells that tell the body where it is in relation to the space around it – than muscle tissue. Fascia is quite literally the organ of self perception.
What Schleip postulates based on his findings on the nature of fascia is that we are not mechanically stretching fascia when we perform Rolfing treatments. Instead, Rolfers are stimulating the nervous system and making changes to the mind’s perception of the body in space, allowing for new patterns of movement to take hold.