Facts about Rolfers

  • There are about 60 certified Rolfers in Canada and 1,600 in 26 countries around the world.
  • Certification formats: Rolfer, Advanced Rolfer and Rolf Movement™ Practitioner.
  • The certification program requires educational prerequisites, training, and mandatory continuing education.
  • Certified Rolfers must follow a Code of Ethical Standards.
  • Client demographics are equal between genders and range through all ages.
  • Over 1 million people have benefited from the Rolfing approach.

Are Rolfing sessions painful?

The biggest fallacy Rolfers run into is that we are doing something intense, and clients have to grin and bear it. Clients can feel discomfort yet they describe it as a good kind of pain, because it is the deep release of pain that has been held within the body for a long time, rather than something produced by the Rolfer. With the application of pressure the old sensations arise and eventually pass away. The sessions are usually regarded by clients as a positive experience. The process is done slowly - sudden and forceful movements are never used. The Rolfer pays close attention to the client, discomfort can be stopped instantly or managed by the client with techniques the Rolfer provides. Rolfers know creating pain is not productive and so they avoid it.

Is Rolfing structural integration like Massage?

 Rolfing structural integrationMassage Therapy (registered)
Hands on bodywork on
a table:
(table is wider and lower than massage table)
Clothing during treatment: In undergarments or however comfortable, not draped with sheets or towels Standards of practice require draping with sheets to expose only the region of the body contacted
Lubricant, oil use: Never use oil, rarely use lubricant. There is more drag and more sustained load, resulting in more effect on fasciae, which can feel challenging from time to time RMTs usually use oil to increase glide and reduce drag. This results in a more pleasant surface sensation
Indicated for recent injuries: Usually not Yes, appropriate for most recent or acute-stage injuries (e.g. sprains, strains, whiplash, etc.)
Indicated for chronic conditions: Yes, good for chronic musculoskeletal conditions, and excellent for the results of old injuries, chronic pain Yes, good for chronic musculoskeletal conditions
Outcomes: Rolfers are specialists at applying fascial work, movement, exercise, and awareness, to obtain WHOLE-BODY fascial (postural) order RMTs address muscle tone, fluid flow, fascial mobility, improved posture, movement patterning pulmonary function, CNS function
Technique: Uses direct fascial technique. Rolfers will get into places most RMTs never touch, and they will work with the client in many positions that RMTs would never consider. Uses a wider variety of strokes (rubbing, kneading, etc.) including direct fascial technique
Session flow
or tempo:
Feels very spacious and relaxed because of frequent interruptions in contact, requests for movement and breathing, breaks to stand and walk around so the Rolfer can assess client.

Rolfers sometimes request clients to move as they work. So, for example, the Rolfer may work along your arm and simultaneously ask you to move your shoulder in a certain way. This is a potent method of freeing fascial restrictions
Constant flowing treatment, continuous touch, interruptions minimized.

Client usually inactive, passive, relaxed
Organization of sessions: Usually 10 sessions in a planned series with infrequent visits afterwards

Each session 60 to 90 minutes
Treatment plan varies depending on the client, assessment results, and the outcomes sought: 1 to 10 sessions, followed by re-assessment.

Each session 30 minutes to 1.5 hours; 50 minutes is common

How long will it last?

Rolfing work has been called "bodywork that lasts."
It addresses symptoms by dealing with the underlying structural problems.
Typically a series of ten one-hour sessions are used, spaced weekly or every two weeks, to produce noticeable results.
Clients sometimes schedule infrequent tune-ups after the initial 10 series.

Who should consider Rolfing structural integration?

Anyone who has suffered trauma or injury, or who suffers from chronic pain, can benefit from Rolfing sessions. Rolfers treat athletes, moms, musicians, tradespeople, professionals, kids and seniors. All bodies are misaligned to some degree and can be made to move more efficiently. Self image issues can be addressed. Rolfing practice also provides a foundation for yoga and sports, working proactively to prevent injury. Professional athletes use Rolfing structural integration to enhance balance and performance.

Notable Canadian athletes who have experienced Rolfing structural integration include:
open quoteAfter all the injuries that one accumulates over years of competition and training, physiotherapy is not enough. To get back to peak function requires something more: Rolfing.close quote
Steve Podborski
Olympic Medalist and World Cup Champion
  • Steve Podborski, World Cup Champion & Olympic skier.
  • Mario Lemieux, NHL hockey legend.
  • Isabelle Brasseur & Lloyd Eisler, Olympic pairs figure skaters.
  • Ben Hindle, Olympic bobsleigh team.
  • Brian Orser, Olympic figure skater.
  • Elvis Stojko, Olympic figure skater.
The list of American athletes known to be using Rolfing structural integration is extensive.
A NFL team, the Minnesota Vikings, show their use of Rolfing structural integration in this video.

What are the benefits of Rolfing structural integration?

Better, more efficient movement, less stress, less pain, enhanced performance, better balance. Some people seeking to get more in touch with their bodies practice Rolfing structural integration to increase awareness and develop more integrated movement choices that enhance the body and mind. Many people try Rolfing sessions as a way to move forward. They are aware that emotional and mental patterns are locked within the body, and have gone as far as they can with practices like meditation or therapy.

One corporation reported it saved a considerable amount of money with Rolfing structural integration in this video.

How much does it cost?

Costs vary from practice to practice depending on the practitioners experience, session length, office overhead, etc. Expect costs to range from $100 to $175 a session. It is best to contact a Rolfing practitioner in your area and discuss your specific needs.

How long is a session?

Sessions typically run around between one hour and an hour and a half.
They are usually spaced about a week or two apart.
Ten sessions are typical.

What is the 10 series?

The 10 series describes a standard series of ten sessions that Rolfers often use to progressively effect changes in body structure. A Rolfer may alter the number and duration of sessions to meet the needs of the client.

A detailed presentation of each session is given below
Videos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 before and after

What happens during a Rolfing session?

rolfing In the first session the Rolfer watches the client performing simple movements and everyday activities and will discuss concerns, goals and motives. Front, back and side photographs may be taken for analysis and later comparison. The Rolfer assesses the client for structural imbalances that may be causing problems or relate to the clients issues.

Sessions are usually between an hour to an hour and a half long. The client can be worked on fully clothed or in their undergarments -- however they are comfortable. The work is usually done in a comfortable private space on a sturdy padded table. Rolfing structural integration differs from other types of bodywork in that the practitioner and client must work together. The Rolfer guides the client through a series of movements and manipulates the targeted tissue gently but deeply, working toward specific results for each session.

Video footage of a Rolfer working can be found here.

What is fascia?

Fascia is the lining of everything in the body: bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and organs. It has several important functions, one being it allows body parts to move and slide easily, relative to each other. Fascia also regulates soft tissue form and length, helping to define shape in our bodies.
Wikipedia on fascia
Video of Dr Thomas Findley on the 2007 Fascia Conference at Harvard
Video of fascia research at Bradford University
Video interview, Dr Robert Schleip on fascia as a major sensory organ

Who can practice Rolfing structural integration?

Only practitioners who are certified by the Rolf Institute® and who are members in good standing of the Canadian Rolfing Association® can practice in Canada.
Rolfing SI improves scoliosis Progression of scoliosis improvement over ten Rolfing sessions

Is Rolfing structural integration helpful with scoliosis?

Yes, Rolfing treatment is very good at decreasing the degree of the curve and improving function near the curve.

Is Rolfing structural integration helpful with sciatica?

Yes. For example, one cause of sciatica is the sciatic nerve being pinched by the piriformis muscle. Rolfing structural integration lengthens and opens the connective tissue around the nerve, eliminating the pinching and the pain.

What about Rolfing structural integration and Yoga?

Rolfing work can help one's yoga practice by breaking through old injuries or patterns and help you reach deeper layers and levels of awareness. The opposite is also true, Yoga is an excellent way to maintain the changes achieved through Rolfing structural integration - not just at a physical level, a regular practice will allow you to examine the how and why of your structure and your movements, which will set you off on the path of self-understanding and self-healing.

Hatha Yoga was an influence in the creation of Rolfing structural integration.

Is it possible to practice Rolfing structural integration on oneself?

Probably not. Application of the technique - to be the one touching and getting touched at the same time - would be difficult. Application of the process - objectively integrating one's own structure without being subjective - would be problematic. Training is necessary, and logistical limitations arise.