Rolfing® Structural Integration is its own unique method. When we are using the principles of Dr. Ida Rolf, we are not simply using a technique, but a strategy, an approach. One does not get “some Rolfing” mixed in with other things, even though myofascial techniques can feel similar and achieve similar results.

That said, here is one Rolfer’s opinion of several modalities and how they compare in intention and user experience. Keep in mind, I have not trained in each modality; I am working off several sources of second hand knowledge plus my own receiving of each work.

Rolfing SI and Massage

Three differences of many:

  1. The intent of Rolfing is to make change in the posture and movement of a person long-term. Tissue release is a means to an end, and Massage by contrast has the intent to break up muscle strain, encourage lymphatic and blood circulation and to relax the body (yummmm).
  2. Rolfing SI is more participatory in nature than massage, asking the client to interact with the Rolfer™ to engage the nervous system, so habit patterns can release alongside the tissue work.
  3. Rolfing SI is oriented to changing the whole body by dividing a series of sessions into strategic territories, rather than working the whole body each time the same ways. The effect is still whole body change, which comes from the strategy. Since massage is less permanent, the masseur or masseuse works the whole body each time.

Some people call Rolfing SI “a form of massage”—even some pros—but it is not. Some people call Rolfing SI a technique, but again, it is not. It is a systematic, whole structure and functional release.

Rolfing SI and Chiropractic

Though complimentary, Rolfers and Chiropractors come at the same issue from different angles. A chiropractor is concerned with the whole nervous system being free from physical constriction, particularly in the spine and joints. Rolfing releases the “connective tissues” that have pulled bones out of joint over time, releasing the nerves if they are pressured or trapped from overall imbalance. Chiropractors often refer their patients to Rolfers so they can get more freedom of movement, and the adjustments can be easier.

 It is often useful to have a chiropractor look at a nerve impingement, bulging disk or other traumas before (or while) seeing a Rolfer, so any x-rays or cautions can inform the process. I’m all for having more than one practitioner on board.

Rolfing SI and Myofascial Release

Myofascial Release (MFR) is a technique for getting release in the fascia and tendonous connective tissue. It is mainly used to relieve injury and in local joints to affects recovery. Physical Therapists have found its effects to be greatly useful.

Rolfers use techniques similar to MFR among other tools to strategize global changes body-wide. You can say that Rolfers do myofascial release, but MFR is not Structural Integration, necessarily.

Rolfers as Structural Integrators release the whole body systematically including local sites of strains and injuries, so you can say we “do the same thing”, but Rolfing SI develops a more lasting strategy for the whole body’s ability to make sense of the changes and walk forward a new body. There is deep respect between the fields, but our training is, in effect, strategically different.

Rolfing SI and Physical Therapy

So different!  While physical therapy is an amazing way to re-learn ways to move and new, less damaging options to injury, its main focus is to train a person to move differently, build strength again, and re-coordinate different muscles for new functions. Put very simply, Rolfing SI is here to release structures that prevent “correct” movements from being natural to the body. If a set of muscles is misaligned or unavailable for activation, structural integration can re-align the muscle sets for freedom, and supercharge the physical therapy exercises for even more rapid recovery. There is a great benefit in combining PT and SI in any rehabilitation. 

Rolfing SI and Reiki

The similarities in these practices are coincidental. They both can move energy about the body, and they both start with R, but otherwise, they are unrelated. Reiki (and I have a first level attunement in Usui Reiki) works with the ‘universal energies' and channels it to the client’s energy field to cleanse the patterns that may be stagnant, absent or misfiring. Rolfing SI influences the physical body to shift patterns, and as a result, and naturally, energies will shift. Energy alone is not what we are after, though it does shift with the entire body.

Rolfing and Golfing, Roofing, Ralphing, etc. …

Yeah…no.