Frequent Asked Questions, with answers from Owen
hy haven’t I heard about Rolfing before?
I’ve been asked this question for 30 years. We’re not hiding, I promise. The media has given Rolfing some good coverage recently, but I still find that the vast majority of my clients come from referrals from previous clients. The people who have experienced Rolfing inspire others with what is possible.
What takes place during a Rolfing session?
The sessions are performed in a sequential manner, so each session is different and based on the work of the previous sessions.
I have multiple goals when I treat a client:
· Reduce or eliminate the pain that is causing you to seek treatment
· Address the cause(s) of your pain
· Begin work on the aspects that will enhance your body’s performance, and the stability of the improvements
I start each session by asking you what’s happened since the previous session—is your pain gone, did you notice anything new, etc. I also observe how you move and hold your body. Then you lie on the Rolfing table, and I work first on the areas that will provide the most change.
Your soft tissue (myofacia) changes when I slowly and gently apply pressure to specific areas and levels. On tense areas, it might be uncomfortable at first. I work at the pace of the tissue that is releasing. If you have pain, it will change into a sense of relaxation and calm with the release. Each subsequent time we work on one of these areas, you’ll be more relaxed, and it will feel really good.
What can I expect from a session?
A Rolfing session is not a massage, but like a massage, you will be relaxed afterwards. Clients often report sleeping deeply the night after the first session and feeling relaxed and tired for a few days.
There is usually no soreness after a session. When there is soreness, it isn’t the type you get from an injury, but is more like how you would feel after a good stretch or workout. I recommend that you do not workout later in the day after receiving a session. The next day should be fine to exercise.
After years of Rolfing, I find I can usually get at least two or three standard sessions worth of change in any given session. And your body can keep changing after the session. Clients frequently report that they feel things shifting and letting go days after a session.
How is Rolfing different from other therapies?
Like massage and physical therapy, Rolfing works with the soft tissue. Massage generally addresses problems that are more acute in the muscle system with a primary goal of relaxation. A massage therapist also stands and uses his or her hands to create the relaxation. I often sit on the edge of the Rolfing table (which is low) and use the side of my arm to apply the pressure and create the release.
I’m a huge fan of massage. As I was learning Rolfing I did and taught massage. Massage is not designed to treat structural or chronic issues. I get many of my referrals from massage therapists who wish to help their clients with their deeper issues.
Physical therapy focuses on using strengthening exercises for rehabilitation. Rolfing does not focus on strengthening, at least through exercise. Rolfers can work on clients after an injury, but we usually see them after they have gone through their rehabilitation process.
Chiropractors primarily concentrate on adjusting the vertebrae of the spine. Rolfers focus on organizing the soft tissue system; I do not do boney adjustments. I refer clients to chiropractors or osteopaths for these types of adjustments.
After a Rolfing series is completed, a client often finds that therapists and doctors enjoy working with them because it is easier for a client to relax and hold his or her treatments longer.
What is Rolf Movement® and do you do it?
Rolf Movement developed out of Dr. Rolf’s request to teach clients how to enhance the changes Rolfing created. Classically it would impart in the clients a felt sense of the concepts of Rolfing, such as what it was to strand straight (“the line” as us old timers use to call it).
Back in the mid ‘70’s I had the fortunate to study with the originators of Rolf Movement. What they taught me became the core to my Rolfing – they taught me how to use gravity and not my muscles to do the work. I will always be indebted to them. Without their instruction, my body would have fallen apart a long time ago.
Yes, I do Rolf Movement work, but with my own adaptation. I took my Rolf Movement training and my training in other movement work such as Feldenkrais Work® to create a simple yet effective way to enhance the changes of Rolfing. I saw clients needed less theories and more relevance in their movement training. The simpler I made my instruction, the more effective it became for the client.
How is your Rolfing different from others?
After working with clients for more than 30 years, I have developed an “indirect” style of Rolfing that minimizes discomfort and maximizes effectiveness. Traditionally used in craniosacral therapy, indirect manipulation is a slower and gentler way of working. Because the client’s body is in control, his or her body learns intrinsically how to relax.
With this indirect technique, I apply pressure to specific areas, and then I follow the tissue to where it wants to go. I recognize that your body has its own intelligence; when you’re relaxed, your body will release its soft tissue at the most appropriate place. The skill comes in knowing where and how to work to maximize this process.
With my quest to learn a wide range of therapies, it was inevitable that the other modalities I studied would creep into my Rolfing. Incorporating other techniques was only part of increasing the scope of my work, though. A large part was increasing the perspective of my work. Other modalities bring new ways to assist clients.
When I had a large practice, I had to learn to be efficient. For most clients, I can accomplish the results of three sessions in the course of one session. Learning how to get the most change—and the deepest change—in the easiest way for you, facilitates more sustainable change. As I treat the problem that brought you to me, I am treating the many underlining causes to that acute problem.
Fixing problems is usually easy. I admit, I enjoy the challenge of creating change beyond a client’s expectation! To do that, we need to address issues that you may be unaware of—we need to address the chronic underling cause. By doing that, you’ll begin to experience the ease you once had as a child. The slow accumulation of stress gradually lowers our quality of life – I want to raise that back up. It is exciting for me when clients tell me they feel young again.
More and more people are saying they do Rolfing. How do I know if you are getting a real Rolfer?
The only true Rolfers are trained and certified by the Rolf Institute. Many people claim to have been trained in the Rolf Method or offer a service based on Rolfing Structural Integration.
I always encourage people to go the Rolf Institute web site, www.Rolf.org to verify the practitioner is a Certified Rolfer. He or she may be safe and good, but to make sure you are getting what you are paying for – verify.
Do I have to commit to the 10 session series?
No. Clients schedule and pay for one session at a time. If, at any point, you or I feel we are not achieving the desired results, we will quit, and I will try to help you find the modality and practitioner that will work for you.
How often will I have sessions?
If you’re in acute pain, I may see you twice the first week. Usually people come in once every week or two. I advise my clients to not go beyond a month between sessions, or we may need to repeat some of the work that we have already done.
I book only one session at a time. In this way, we can determine what is best as we progress.
What should I wear?
Women normally wear a two-piece bathing suit, yoga clothes, or workout outfit. Some prefer to wear their underwear, but the bra should not be restrictive. Men wear either gym shorts, swim trunks, or their underwear. I don’t care what you wear, as long as you’re comfortable, and it doesn’t interfere with the areas I need to work on.
Does Rolfing hurt?
It can hurt in the beginning, before the tissue releases. As that area and the entire body learn to release and relax, the discomfort is often transformed into pleasant sensations. The majority of the time, a first-time client will say, “I thought this would hurt but it didn’t.”
We train ourselves to hold and brace against pain and injury. This is a common response to all forms of stress. Over time, this response becomes ingrained and self-replicating. For chronic pain clients in particular, this pain cycle can ultimately develop into the client’s worst enemy. Learning how to relax, and not hold tension in the body, is a leading benefit of Rolfing. You can fix a specific problem, but if the body doesn’t learn a new way to handle tension, the problem can return.
My style ranges from gentle Rolfing to firmer indirect myofascial release. What that means is that my touch might be light or it might be slow and firm as I follow the release of the soft tissue.
Some men hairy find bodywork painful because their hair ends up being pulled. The way I work there is fiction on the skin, so there is no hair pulling. In fact, for many of my women clients I work through their thin cotton leggings.
What is the age range of your clients?
I have Rolfed clients of all ages – from an infant to an 86-year-old. A person’s age is not a major variable to how well he or she will change. The level of vitality and the willingness to change are bigger determinants of success.
How does Rolfing work with pain?
Pain is an interesting phenomenon. Healthcare providers often tell clients that nothing is wrong, and in many ways that is true. Yet even these clients’ physicians will readily admit that the person is in pain. There are no tests that can quantify pain; there are no tests that can measure tension.
Chronic pain can snowball into a medical issue of its own, wearing down and exhausting a person. From my Rolfing practice and teaching Mindfulness Stress Reduction courses, I learned that if people learn to release tension and not to recreate it, we could often reduce or alleviate their pain.
Pain is a great example of a place where high-tech health care is often ineffective, yet labor-intensive alternative therapies can be effective. The secret to healing pain is releasing tension. There is no drug that will do that permanently.
How can Rolfing affect the ageing process?
Ageing is due to the collective effect of stress and its wear on the body. Hans Selye, MD, the original researcher of stress, referred to fascia – the soft tissue Rolfing releases – as the organ of stress. It is also the organ that shows much of the ageing processes. People have been injecting collagen–the primary protein of fascia–into ageing skin for years.
Rolfing has been shown to aid suffers of chronic fatigue syndrome, the condition where stress exhausts the body. Aesthetically, Rolfing is known to produce reduction in cellulite, another believed consequence of aging. Through releasing stress, many clients not only report feeling younger, but also are told they look younger. Simply having good posture and moving freely connote the vitality of youth.
Why do the results from Rolfing last so long?
All therapies have their niche where they are most effective. For Rolfing, it is treating chronic tension and structural patterns. Rolfing, when optimally performed, addresses the causes of problems – not just the symptoms. The core goal of Rolfing is to integrate the body’s structure. Treating a specific symptom so that the immediate pain goes away is often easy; creating a level of order so that it does not return is the challenging part.
Problems can also return because a client’s body hasn’t learned how to shift an old pattern. We often develop behaviors such as not breathing correctly or moving a limb in an unusual manner. A more natural pattern needs to be learned if the body is to maintain order and comfort. In every session, I work with the client on learning these more efficient patterns. In the beginning, it is hard to believe that change is possible, but as the body responds to the Rolfing, it becomes much easier to change patterns.
What is good posture?
Posture, the behavior aspect of structure, is created by what we teach our bodies to do in gravity. It evolves to be a set of habits we no longer think about.
We all agree that standing up straight is good; however, opinions vary on the definition of “straight” and how to best achieve it. My experience has shown me that what our mothers, gym teachers, drill sergeants and culture have taught us is often not the best posture.
Often when a person is asked to stand up straight, he or she attempts to straighten up and further distorts his or her misalignment. The person will work even harder at standing erect, which means holding parts of their body more. Not only does this often make one more tense, it creates an imbalance.
My goal is to assist a client in achieving good posture that not only looks good, but also works well and feels good. This is achieved by first releasing the soft tissue so the body can be aligned. Then – and this is often the difficult part – old habits need to be unlearned and replaced with more appropriate habits. My goal is to have a person stand up straight without effort and without holding.
What does the medical community think about Rolfing?
Over the years, I have witnessed a growing familiarity and acceptance of Rolfing, which goes with the growing acceptance of holistic health practices. Patients who tell their physicians about their personal experiences with Rolfing drive some of this, and some of it is due to the physicians’ desire to help their patients. I also believe that the profession’s appreciation of Rolfing is growing because more physicians are getting Rolfed. Since I started practicing, I have treated more than 70 docs.
And a wide range of physicians – from orthopedic surgeons to OB-GYNs – have referred clients to me.
Why do you want your clients to stop seeing you?
Much of the change from Rolfing occurs after a series is completed, because the body needs time to integrate. I have had clients come back after six months with an entirely different body. Places that hurt and were extremely tense became calm and relaxed. We spend years getting tense; it takes several months to unwind that tension.
I usually suggest other therapies or classes instead of continuing with more Rolfing sessions, because clients can get the most for their money if they seek the assistance of others after the series is completed.
Where do your clients come from?
My Rolfing clients regularly come from northern Idaho; Spokane and Seattle, Washington; northwest Montana; and southeast British Columbia. To my surprise, the number of clients coming from outside Sandpoint continues to grow. They tell me it is worth the drive – I guess they would know. Less frequently, clients fly in from the East and West Coasts for Rolfing sessions.
When would you not work on someone?
Generally, if a client’s goals or problems are related to a condition other than stress, soft tissue or structural concerns, or they do not get better from the body releasing, I will refer them to someone else. More specifically, if a person has cancer or another illness that can spread with increased circulation, I will not work on them.
For example, Rolfing cannot directly affect polio. Yet I have been able to help clients who were experiencing post-polio syndrome, a condition that evolves from years of compensation and stress from polio.
If, during the course of the series of sessions, I have not produced the level of change I desire, I might suggest taking more time to complete the series. I might also suggest using other therapies in conjunction with—or without—Rolfing.
Does insurance pay for Rolfing?
Clients are responsible for payment. However, when a client provides me with a prescription from a referring physician, I give the client a receipt for their insurance company. With that receipt, the client can try to get reimbursed for their payment to me.
I have had good success with clients’ auto insurance paying for Rolfing sessions following auto accidents. When I practiced in Arizona, I was an approved provider for Workers Compensation, which made reimbursing easy for work injuries. Medical insurance usually only pays for Rolfing when the client is tenacious about getting reimbursed – and then, they usually only pay a portion.
My office is not set up to do insurance billing. If your insurance company or attorney needs any records, reports or anything beyond a simple receipt; I charge $50 per hour. Most times you can get by without needing extra paperwork.
Do other types of healthcare plans cover Rolfing?
Consumer-driven healthcare plans (CDHP) are becoming more common.
These are plans that the client or his/her company contributes to, so the client can be reimbursed for out-of-pocket healthcare costs. These costs can be from procedures that their standard health insurance will not pay for, such as Rolfing. Examples of these plans include:
FSAs – Flexible Spending Accounts
MSAs – Medical Savings Accounts
HRAs – Health Reimbursement Arrangements
HSAs – Health Savings Accounts
What celebrities have received Rolfing?
Over the years, particularly while in Scottsdale I had several for clients, because I don’t have permission to share their names I won’t. Here’s a list of the ones who others have given Rolfing that have gone public.
More questions? Ask your question as a “comment” below.