In Canada, Rolfing® structural Integration is not a wide spread type of manual therapy. Yet, the number of practitioners is increasing each year. It is more popular in the United State, Brazil, Germany and Japan. Some of the most well-known scholars on fascial science or mental health proponents have been trained in this method. To name a few, Robert Schleip (https://rolfing.org/robert-schleip/), Eric Jacobson (http://www.ericjacobsonbodywork.com/research.html), and although he is not currently practicing, Peter Levine.
I tree planted for almost two decades and experienced multiple aches, internally scarred tissue, lack of proper function from repetitive tendonitis, and nerve compression in the shoulders. The most bothersome was chronic mid back pain. I had heard of Rolfing Structural Integration multiple times in yoga studios, or via professional dancers back when I lived in Montreal. So, after completing my university studies, I decided to try the Rolfing Ten series. With each session, I experienced some relief, which then develop in unexpected ways throughout the Ten series. The whole process was transformative not only in relieving me from the chronic back pain and issues in my arms, but also in bringing about a sense of lightness and ease in movement which I had never experienced before. I decided to share the benefit I received from Rolfing to others, and so I went on to the United States to complete the program.
The Ten series
The hallmark of Rolfing Structural Integration is known as the Ten series (https://rolfingcanada.org/iprs-10-series/). Its overarching goal is to balance and optimized both the structure (shape) and function (movement) of the entire body over the course of ten session. During sessions 1-3, the practitioner works on the ribcage and shoulders in order to invite more ease in breathing, the feet and legs to establish better support for the structures above and the sides of the body as to facilitate ease in walking. Sessions 4-7 get into the deeper fascial layers by working on the midline of the lower limb and pelvis, the deep core, the deep back and the deep neck and head. During the last three session, the Rolfing practitioner hands-on work is mixed with more movement as to invite better coordination and integration (of the change obtained in previous sessions) between segments; for example, head to shoulders, shoulders to torso, shoulders to pelvis, pelvis to feet.
It is important to clarify that this Ten series is a guide but not a rule. Each session will vary to more or less degree from this arching series in order to respond to each person uniqueness and needs. Please allow me to explain further why this idea of working on different part of the body instead of focusing solely on the area where someone feels pain holds some solid ground.
A randomized clinical trial on the treatment of chronic low back pain which included Rolfing® was recently conducted at the Harvard Medical School and the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. The study found that the group of patients who completed the Rolfing® Ten series in addition to the current standard of outpatient rehabilitation (OR) had a statistically and clinically significant reduction in back pain disability compared to the group who only went through the standard OR alone (https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/813418/).
The point to accentuate about the “why” of the Ten series is mainly that the whole of the body is connected, from arms to hips to feet. Nothing in our physical and mental “self” work independently from another area. A misconception in our current society is to believe that the area where we feel pain is where the cause of the pain is. Thus, a person will come in for treatment and ask for a back massage -as an example-, and keep coming back asking for the same treatment again and again. Maybe this person’s back pain is due to issues in their feet combined with a misfiring of the glutes. Maybe it is also related to the position of their head. If the head is habitually held forward, the back musculature will have to keep working overtime in order to resist the extra pull from gravity. The body is complex and interconnected. The body embraces – for better or worst – this amazing ability to adapt and adjust as a whole. This is the reason why the benefit from the Ten series comes in play.
A few questions should arise…
What about this nagging pain I have had in my shoulder for the past three days?
- In the session, the area that is bothersome will be address while not being the sole focus of the treatment.
Can I come see you and not do the Ten series?
- Yes, of course. You can come in for treatment outside of the context of this series. In order to get results for your situation, it is better to consider a few sessions as this will establish more solid changes. However, I do not expect anyone to book more than one session at the time. This allows you to see if my touch and the way I work is appropriate for you at this time.
I am curious but not sure, what about just trying a few sessions?
- If you are curious about the Ten series but do not feel like you want to go through the whole process, I suggest to try the first three sessions. This will allow you to see if my work is what you need at this time. And even after taking some time away, you can contact me again and continue where we left off.
What can I expect?
- I begin with a check in to hear about your concern and experience. I follow this with assessments to observe holding patterns, restrictions or changes since last session. I then continue with the hands-on portion of the appointment. I may work on one area more than the other or differently. This is because our bodies are not symmetrical and our pains and strains won’t be either. I finish the session with some reassessments and may have some suggestions for you.
What should I wear?
- I mentioned that there are movements sometimes during the session. Other times, work may be also done while you sit on a bench. For these reasons, wear something comfortable like running or yoga shorts, bathing suits, regular or a sport bra, or gym wear.