Rolfing Studies

Structural Integration was created by Dr. Ida P. Rolf. She received her PhD in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 1920. She worked for 12 years at the Rockefeller Institute in the Chemotherapy and Organic Chemistry departments. She studied mathematics and atomic physics in Zurich and Homeopathic Medicine in Geneva. During the 1930’s Dr. Rolf studied Osteopathy, Chiropractic Medicine, Tantric Yoga, the Alexander Technique, and Korzybski’s work on consciousness. By the 1940’s she developed her work and spent the next 30 years perfecting and teaching it.

A few of the studies done:

Study 1

Project: Children’s Project; three year pilot study in Philadelphia, PA conducted by a group of Rolfers led by Robert Toporek, 1978; monograph “The Promise of Rolfing Children” reported on this study published in 1981. Each child’s photograph before Session 1 and after Session 10 and some two and three years later were shown. A summary of results gathered from interviewing the parents and Rolfer’s comments documented the changes.

Result: This pilot study with children demonstrated that:

  1. A dramatic improvement in the children’s physical, psychological and behavioral patterns had occurred
  2. Consistently parents reported the children had increased confidence, better verbal expression, more self-control and less destructive behavior.
  3. Rolfing is an effective means to address conditions such as cerebral palsy and scoliosis.

Study 2

Project: UCLA Department of Kinesiology; five year study conducted by Dr. Valerie Hunt and Dr. Wayne Massey; “A Study of Structural Integration from Neuromuscular, Energy Field and Emotional Approaches” completed in 1977. There were measurements before and after Rolfing of anxiety states, brain hemisphere activity, energy field photography, DC recordings of energy flow in electrical voltage readings, EMG recordings from sixteen separate muscles, electromyograms of neuromuscular patterning of energy, and electronic auric field study. 

Result: This five-year study produced many results, difficult to summarize adequately in a brief statement. These are a few of the outstanding results:

  • Greater physical skill
  • Emotional calmness; decrease in anxiety state
  • Improved social interaction
  • Feelings of well being
  • Memory recall
  • Enhanced ability to access different states of consciousness
  • Increasing right hemisphere brain dominance when needed for right brain activity
  • Evidence of changes in ways of processing data and the nature of thought processes that ensue
  • Greater movement efficiency
  • More energy; less fatigue
  • Improved neuromuscular balance
  • Greater energy flow and balanced distribution of energy

Project: J. Cottingham, M.S., S. Porges, Ph.D., and T. Lyon, M.D. studied the “Effects of Soft Tissue Mobilization (Rolfing Pelvic Lift) on Parasympathetic Tone in Two Age Groups” at the Frances Nelson Health Center, 1987. Parasympathetic tone was assessed by 1) quantifying the amplitude of the respiratory sinus arrhythmia from the heart rate pattern and 2) measuring heart rate. Result: The pelvic lift increased the tone of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is usually associated with decreased levels of stress.

Peer Journals

“Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine,” March 2000. Certified Rolfers, John Cottingham and Jeffrey Maitland’s research article, “Integrating Manual and Movement Therapy With Philosophical Counseling For Treatment of A Patient With Amyptrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS): A Case Study That Explores The Principles Of Holistic Intervention” was published in Dr. Larry Dossey’s “Journal of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.”

March 1998, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, editor, Michael Villaire, reviews a Rolfing case study on low back pain originally published in JOSPT.

Sept. 1997, Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, “A Three- Paradigm Treatment Model Using Soft Tissue Mobilization And Guided Movement- Awareness Techniques For A Patient With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Case Study”, by Certified Advanced Rolfers, J. Cottingham and J. Maitland; 26(3): 155-167.

Effects of Soft Tissue Mobilization On Pelvic Inclination Angle, Lumbar lordosis, and Parasympathetic Tone: Implications for Treatment of Disabilities Associated with Lumbar Degenerative Joint Disease, Cottingham JT. Public testimony presentation to the National Center of Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD; March 19,1992. Rolf Lines 20 (2): 42-45, 1992

A Three-Paradigm Treatment Model Using Soft Tissue Mobilization and Guided Movement-Awareness Techniques For Patients With Chronic Back Pain: A Case Study, J. Cottingham and J. Maitland, The Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, Vol.26, No.3, Sept.1997

Integrating Manual and Movement Therapy With Philosophical Counseling For Treatment of A Patient With Amyptrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Case Study That Explores The Principles Of Holistic Intervention J. Cottingham, M.S., P.T. and J. Maitland, Ph.D., Alternative Therapies In Health and Medicine, Winter/Spring 2000

More recent research conducted at the University of Maryland demonstrated that Rolfing significantly reduces chronic stress and changes body structure. In this study, Rolfing was shown to have significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back). The research also indicated that Rolfing enhances neurological functioning.