Rolfing for back pain is a type of deep tissue massage which also preaches anatomical alignment as crucial to achieving a symptom-free state of good health. Rolfing is a very popular form of complementary treatment for a great number of symptomatic conditions, although there is little independent evidence supporting it as a effective cure for most types of back pain. That being said, many patients have reported a reduction in the severity and frequency of their pain from Rolfing therapy.
There are really no health risks to consider when discussing Rolfing, but the question of monetary risk is another matter altogether. It is for this reason that patients are never advised to commit to any long-term treatment program until they are absolutely sure that they will benefit from the methods of care utilized. If a Rolfing provider is not wiling to let you try a few sessions without a commitment, then it is time to simply walk away and find one who will.
Rolfing has been used to treat pain since it was invented and refined in the 1950’s by Ida Pauline Rolf. Ms. Rolf was a biochemist who was looking for a solution to her own chronic pain and eventually developed the modern system of therapy over the course of many years.
Rolfing embraces 2 main philosophies for treating pain: The first is correcting the vertical alignment of the body to work ideally with gravity. The second is that many painful complaints are actually due to soft tissue concerns, and specifically, problematic tissue attachments affecting the fascia. It is no surprise that Rolfing practitioners provide both postural and alignment guidance, as well as hands-on bodywork to their clients.
Most Rolfing practitioners convince their clients that they should sign up for a ten session therapy program. This is both good and bad. Positively, at least the practitioner will not milk a client for months or years if the therapy is not working. Negatively, many, many patients do not see any benefit to the program and waste the $1000 or more, when they may have been better off trying a session or 2 before bailing out.
In all fairness, sometimes, it takes a few sessions for relief to begin. Therapy typically consists of deep tissue massage, much like any other form of deep body work and postural assessment and correction.
I have witnessed Rolfing personally and first hand on several occasions. I did not enjoy the experience from a patient’s perspective and found the sessions to be painful. Other people find the experience to be quite different, obviously, or the system would not be so successful. I particularly found the postural applications to be unenlightened and almost hokey. I do not think they are valid for most patients and some modern practitioners have all but abandoned them in many instances where they obviously do not apply. In all fairness, the skill of the practitioner would probably make a huge difference in the quality and efficacy of services provided.
If you are looking for a highly organized and possibly effectual system of deep tissue work, then by all means, consider Rolfing. You may find back pain relief or you may not, but at least you will not be kept in symptomatic slavery for too long, as opposed to many other care routines. Just be warned for the possibility of an immediate commitment to care demand right from the start.