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Rolfing & Research

Dr. Ida Rolf was studying fascia in the 1920's at the Rockefeller Institute, and Rolfing practitioners have been fascinated with the properties of the body's fascial web since the 60's. But, until recently, mainstream medicine viewed facia as little more than the stuffing surrounding all the really interesting parts (bones, muscles, and organs).

Fascia is now in vogue among the research and medical communities and studies are ongoing. Although much of the research is focused on basic science (What exactly is fascia? What is is made of? What are it's properties?), there is increasing interest in the role that fascia plays in musculoskeletal strain disorders such as low back pain and instability; postural strain patterns; fibromyalgia; pelvic pain; respiratory dysfunction; chronic stress injures; wound healing; and trauma recovery/repair.

For the latest in structural integration and fascia research, visit the following websites:

The Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation - The only nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting structural integration research and collaboration between research and clinical communities.

The International Fascia Research Congress - A project of the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation, the Congress was the brain-child of Certified Advanced Rolfer Tom Findley, MD, PhD. The Third Internation conference will be held in Vancouver, BC in 2012 and — as usual — will present the latest and best fascia findings. DVD recordings and proceedings books from prior Congresses are available on this site. Also check out the Science Magazine article. - Searchable website created by Certifed Advanced Rolfer, Robert Schleip, PhD. Be sure to look through Schleip's Fascia Research Project in his lab at Ulm University, Ulm, Germany.

Rolfing structural integration treatment of cervical spine dysfunction demonstrates that the basic ten-session series of Rolfing Structural Integration (RSI), when applied by a physical therapist with advanced RSI certification, is capable of significantly decreasing pain and increasing active range of motion in adults with cervical spine dysfunction.


Early studies:

In her 1963 study, “Project Breakthrough,” Ida Rolf found that children who had received Rolfing work exhibited better muscle tone, better alignment, and improved social responsiveness. Photo courtesy of Rolf Institute of Structural Integration.

Dr. Valerie D. Hunt and Dr. WayneW. Massey of the UCLA Department of Kinesiology completed a five-year controlled study in 1977, entitled, “A study of structural integration from neuromuscular, energy field and emotional approaches.”

They found that subjects who had receivedRolfing exhibited:

  • Smoother, larger, and less constrained extraneous movements
  • Greater movement efficiency and improved neuromuscular balance
  • More dynamic and energetic body movements, with less fatigue
  • A more erect carriage with less obvious strain to maintain held positions
  • Increased emotional calmness, a greater sense of well being, and decreased anxiety.

More recent research findings include the positive effects of Rolfing on the autonomic nervous system (published in The Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association, Mar. 1988) and benefits of Rolfing for chronic back pain (The Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Sept.1997).

Integrating Manual and Movement Therapy with Philosophical Counseling for Treatment of a Patient with Amyptrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A case study that explores the principles of holistic intervention. J. Cottingham, M.S., P.T. & J. Maitland, Ph.D., Alternative Therapies In Health and Medicine, Winter/Spring 2000.

A Three-Paradigm Treatment Model Using Soft Tissue Mobilization and Guided Movement-Awareness Techniques for Patients with Chronic Back Pain: A case study. J. Cottingham & J. Maitland, The Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Vol.26, No.3, Sept.1997.

Effects of Soft Tissue Mobilization on Pelvic Inclination Angle, Lumbar Lordosis, and Parasympathetic Tone: Implications for treatment of disabilities associated with lumbar degenerative joint disease. Cottingham JT. Public testimony presentation to the National Center of Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD; March 19, 1992. Rolf Lines, 20 (2): 42-45, 1992.

Biomechanical Structuring for Figure Skating: Preliminary pilot study report for the U.S. Figure Skating Association. Helen James, Katharine Robertson, & Neal Powers, Olympic Training Center Camp, CO, 1988.

Shifts in Pelvic Inclination Angle and Parasympathetic Tone Produced by Rolfing Soft Tissue Manipulation. J. Cottingham, Frances Nelson Health Center, Illinois. The Journal of American Physical Therapy Association, Vol. 68, 1364-1370, 1988.

Effects of Soft Tissue Mobilization on Parasympathetic Tone in Two Age Groups. J. Cottingham, Frances Nelson Health Center, Illinois, 1987. The Journal of American Physical Therapy Association, Vol. 68, 352-356, 1988.

Children With Cerebral Palsy. Cindy Potter, 1986.

Functional Evaluation of Rolfing in Cerebral Palsy. Perry, Jones & Thomas. Developmental Med. Child. Neurol., 1981, 23.

Electromyographic Evaluation of Structural Integration Techniques. V. Hunt & W. Massey, UCLA. Psychoenergetic Systems, Gordon & Breach Science Pub., U.K., 1977.

Effects of Structural Integration on State-Trait Anxiety. R. Wagner & V. Hunt, UCLA, 1976. Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 35, No.2, April 1979.

Stress, Stimulus Intensity Control, and the Structural Integration Technique. Silverman, Rappaport & Hopkins. Confinia Psychiatrica, Karger Publisher, Switzerland, 1973.

Structural Integration, I.P. Rolf, Rockefeller Institute, N.Y., 1918 – 1927.


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