What the hell is rolfing?
I thought it was some combination of roller-blading and golfing, but what do I know? Anyway, I came across it at work and wondered what exactly it was. I sort of knew it was related to New Age-y alternative medicine, but didn’t really know much about it. A brief synopsis:
Rolfing® seems to be a kind of myofascial massage, but Rolfers prefer to call it “movement education.” Whatever you call it, Rolfing involves touching the skin, feeling around for “imbalances” in tissue texture, and separating “fascial layers that adhere and muscles that have been pulled out of position by strain or injury.”* It is also a kind of energy medicine.* Rolfers consider their unique contribution to be “to balance the body in gravity.” Deep massage or other forms of soft tissue manipulation can’t do that, they say.
It looks for all the world like a form of massage. Rolfers apparently don’t really think so, but they don’t seem to do a good job explaining why it isn’t. As would be expected from a form of alternative medicine, there’s plenty of weird and nonsensical gibberish explaining it:
The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI) has continued Dr. Rolf’s profound inquiry into how to enhance the whole person by organizing the body in gravity.
Rolfing is a holistic technique in that changes in structure can impact the whole person, physically, emotionally, and energetically.
In Rolf Movement Integration, the Rolfer helps clients become aware of their inhibiting movement patterns and teaches them how to change them. In Rolfing structural integration, the Rolfer releases these patterns through manipulation as they manifest in the client’s structure. Rolfing is as concerned with how people experience and use their bodies in their daily lives as with their structural organization in gravity.
I’d like to see anyone to explain how rolfing improves “structural organization in gravity.”
That’s really the problem with the sort of physical therapy-ish alternative practices. To the extent that they do anything, it’s placebo and basic muscle, joint, and skeletal function improvement. Not content with that, a bunch of metaphysical pap and elusory benefits are added to dazzle the consumer into thinking it’s something new and exciting.