What is the difference between Rolfing and Myofascial release?

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Written By Diene Oliveira Cruz

MD, PhD. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician from São Paulo - Brazil. Pain Fellowship in University of São Paulo.

Myofascial Release

Myofascial Release is one of several techniques used in the organization of the body’s tissues, primarily the fascia, to improve the relationship of the body parts, both mechanically, in the behavior of the joints, as well as in the coordination of movements and the perception of the body as a whole.

The Myofascial Release touch should not cause pain or discomfort. Otherwise, the tissues will retract further, aggravating the issue of being resolved.

Nor should any type of instrument such as rollers, be used, as only the therapist’s touch can balance the dose between pressure and listening so that the fascia can be modified and cause the desired effects.

What is Rolfing?

rolfing massage

The Rolfing method works to release the fascia (network structure that permeates all bones, muscles, nerves and organs) through touch, seeking relief from chronic pain, postural correction and better quality of life.

Rolfing was created by the American scientist Ida P. Rolf (1886-1979), Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Columbia University. It is a treatment carried out through specialized, deep and precise touches made with the hands to eliminate muscle tensions and shortening, reducing pain, correct posture and improving movements.

It is a method that uses manual therapy and fascia as raw material, balancing its tensions and shaping this tissue so that it can relate more harmoniously to gravity, positively affecting the posture, presence and movement of the patient.

What makes Rolfing different from other methods?

The main difference is that it is not corrective/repairing work but holistic, considering various aspects of the human being. In addition, it values the importance of gravity and its relationship with the fascial system.

What is the advantage of the Rolfing method?

One of the advantages of the method is that it obeys a holistic paradigm and positively impacts the patient’s posture, whether related to structural integration or posture in relation to space and people.

Initially, the improvement occurs physically, releasing the stiffness and tensions that cause pain, reorganizing the body’s structures, and improving posture and postural awareness. In the background, by working the fascia and perception, the Rolfing approach produces action on the nervous system, resulting in benefits related to the relaxation response and physical and mental well-being.

How is the application of the method?

patient rolfing treatment

The work begins with observing and analyzing the patient’s body structure and movement patterns.

Together with the technician, sensations and perceptions are discussed, observing the alignment of the body members, the relationship between them, identifying areas of immobility and tension, areas with rotations and torsions and the existence of specific problems (generally pain) of the patient, thus creating an ideal application plan for each case.

Generally, 10 to 15 structural and movement sessions are performed, each lasting an average of one hour.

Main differences between Rolfing and Myofascial Release

The main difference between myofascial release and Rolfing is the idea of looking at the entire body as a system that functions together and is impacted by other parts of the body.

In Rolfing, we have a ten series that people initially go through, and each of those sessions focuses on different parts of the body. We have different goals for each session.

Myofascial release approaches this from a different perspective. They tend to focus on where the pain and tension are and do excellent work at sites viewed as problematic by the patient or the therapist. However, there isn’t a lot of structure around this concept of holism, that perhaps the problem isn’t always where the pain is. As Robert Schleip said many years ago, “The problem isn’t always where the pain is.”

The Myofascial Release technique consists of one of the strategies for the Rolfer to stimulate the client’s body self-organization. There is not one, but several ways of applying for Myofascial Release. Many schools of body therapy use different modes of release. At Rolfing®️, we prioritize the respectful way that allows the client to feel their body as a whole and the global effect that a local touch provides.

We can say that Rolfing®️ is a way of thinking and strategizing the various interventions to understand what each client’s body needs to organize itself. Myofascial release in turn is one of the tools that the Rolfer uses to stimulate possible bodily changes.

rolfing myofascial release

In teaching this point about holism and integration, we have to consider the whole body and the whole body’s history when we work. We don’t need to do a disservice to them by simply chasing their pain. That can be sometimes a tough concept for patients when they come in with chronic pain or chronic tension.

Naturally, as humans, our instinct is to want more where it hurts, but we often converse with clients to say, “Hey, I hear that you’re having pain. I acknowledge that that has got to be very uncomfortable, but that may, in fact, be where your body can no longer adapt to a bigger problem somewhere else.”

Usually, people can come around as we work together. That is the main difference – the concept of holism and integration – between myofascial release and Rolfing. We can often find the root cause of the pain and tension by addressing the entire body and its history rather than simply treating the symptoms.

In summary, both Rolfing and myofascial release are valuable bodywork techniques that can help alleviate pain and tension. However, Rolfing takes a more holistic approach, addressing the body as a system, while myofascial release focuses more on specific areas of pain and tension. Understanding the differences between these two techniques can help you choose the right approach for your needs.

diene oliveira cruz
Diene Oliveira Cruz
Physical Therapist | + posts

Physiotherapist, with specialization in Orthopedics and Traumatology by Santa Casa de São Paulo. Pain and Rehabilitation Specialist.

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