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Rolfing the pain away – Therapy focuses on connective muscle tissue to improve posture

Free Press Article – April 6, 2012


When practitioners of Rolf Structural Integration therapy work with people to help improve their posture, they manipulate the connective tissue, or fascia, in order to improve the balance between opposing muscles.

In any movement of the body, there must be a coordinated opposing balance between what I like to think of as the “doing muscle” — the muscle which actively contracts to perform the movement, and the “being muscle.” The being muscle must simply “be,” that is relax and lengthen to allow the doing muscle to perform the movement. Both do-ers and be-ers are equally important in creating smooth, graceful, coordinated movement.

For many people, however, old injuries, stress, or habitual movement patterns altered by chronic pain, overuse, or poor posture can cause muscular imbalances which cause the doing muscles to weaken and/or the being muscles to get tight. When this happens, efficient movement is impossible. If this occurs repeatedly over time, an injury is the likely result.

Fortunately, Dr. Ida Rolf, the developer of Rolf Structural Integration, taught us a unique way of restoring muscular balance to the body.

While most traditional anatomy texts gave little more than passing mention to this most prevalent tissue in the body, Dr. Rolf made it the focus of her therapy. She discovered that by manipulating abnormal fascial restrictions that impede the proper functioning of both being and doing muscles, the therapist could improve the overall physical structure of the body.

Dr. Rolf often spoke of the potential of Rolf Structural Integration to help people to “use gravity as a tool.” By this, she was referring to the idea of Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion, which states that for every action (such as the action of the weight of a body pushing down into the ground), there is an equal and opposite reaction (the force of gravity “pushing” back upward on that body).

For us to be able to utilize gravity in this way though, we must be able to exert a single “structurally integrated” force directly down into the field of gravity. Instead, for many people, the head might shift forward relative to the rest of the body and exert a force in one direction, while the torso and low back collapse into each other and exert forces in other directions.

OK, so much for my rudimentary understanding of classical Newtonian physics. What does this have to do with good heath and performing at our optimum? I believe it’s all about balance. Just as we need a good balance of rest and exercise, balance between mental stimulation, physical activity, and spiritual endeavor, and a healthy diet with a balance of good fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, so too do we need a state of balance between our doing and being muscles.


Kirk Apt is a certified bodywork therapist with more than 15 years experience. He utilizes many techniques such as traditional Swedish massage, myofascial therapy and Rolf Structural Integration. He can be reached at Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions, 2139 N. 12th St. #7, 970-256-8449.

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