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What is Rolfing®?

Rolfing® was developed by Ida P. Rolf, Ph. D. She originally called the technique Structural Integration, but for obvious reasons, the term Rolfing® came into popular usage. Now, the term Rolfing® and Rolfer® are registered service marks of the Rolf Institute.

Dr. Rolf obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1920 from Columbia University. In the 1930s, Dr. Rolf was unsatisfied with available medical treatment and explored alternative methods. By the 1940s, she had begun to develop her own technique and helped many chronically disabled people. She further refined her technique and ultimately wound up with the 10 sessions series. The series is designed to help an individual be more organized around a central vertical line, or more simply, to stand and sit straighter with less muscle effort.

Although this is a whole body approach, each session works with a different part of the body. The sessions build on one another and each has a specific goals. The ultimate goal, of course, is a more vertical, balanced physical structure.

How does Rolfing® work?

The medium through which Rolfers® work is the connective tissue or fascia. Think of removing the skin from a chicken. As you do so, there is a white filmy layer between the skin and the meat. This is the superficial fascia of the chicken. We also have a superficial layer of connective tissue beneath our skin and also deeper within out bodies. It is wrapped around muscles, between organs, and is sometimes quite thick to provide support in such places as the low back and the bottoms of the feet.

Over time, secondary to physical trauma, emotional stress, poor postural habits, and/or the effects of gravity, the connective tissue may become less resilient and flexible. It may even start feeling tough and hard. This usually happens more locally and, like dominoes falling, other parts of the body may become involved. Something as simple as a sprained ankle may precipitate these changes. For example, if the ankle is sprained, the individual limps for awhile so other joints are subtly off balance, the fascia starts changing to adapt to the limp and voila, restrictions and imbalance occur.

During Rolfing®, pressure is applied to the appropriate layer of fascial restriction, via fingers, knuckles, and elbow. Rolfers® believe that the fascia responds to the pressure, thinning out where it has become thick, returning to where it belongs if it has moved, and the structure changes accordingly.

“Incredibly Pleased”

I decided to try Rolfing after I had heard it mentioned from a couple of people. I had started going to the chiropractor about 3 years ago to help with migraines. Getting adjusted by the chiropractor drastically helped my migraines, but I began to notice that my adjustment was not “sticking.” I found myself having to go to the chiropractor two to three times a week and I didn’t like the feeling of being so dependent on getting adjusted, but if I didn’t get adjusted, then the misalignment would cause a terrible headache. So after trying a few other physical therapy treatments that helped some, I thought I would give Rolfing a shot. I had read and heard some great things about Rolfing, so I figured it would be a worthwhile experience.

I recently completed my first ten sessions and am incredibly pleased with the results that I have experienced so far. To date, I am noticing that my body is more aligned, my posture is better and after implementing suggestions and tips that Kim has recommended, I am not experiencing as much tension in my shoulders, neck, and back. I also expect from what Kim said that, as time goes on, there is the possibility of even greater improvements because my body will continue to integrate her work.

What I found most valuable was Kim herself. Not only is she incredibly knowledgeable in her field, but I was impressed and incredibly pleased with the time she spent with me giving me suggestions to implement in my life to help my specific needs. It is a rare thing to find someone who is willing to go above and beyond to help others as much as Kim. I am very grateful for her help. Although sometimes intense, overall, I found my Rolfing experience to be wonderful, not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. Rolfing is unlike anything that I have experienced before, one session builds on the next, so the results are continual. One thing I can say is expect the unexpected and commit to the full ten sessions (in my opinion), then you will see the very best benefits for you.

- Michelle McHome

Kim is a gift.

As I reminisce through thoughts of my life growing up with scoliosis, I am continually thankful for my parents who did not take the advice of a specialist. I am thankful that they used common sense, educated themselves, and made proactive choices for my well being. Most of all I am grateful that I was not bound into immobility by a cast at a young age, nor was I put under the knife to have rods put up my spine to straighten my back leaving me to deal with a lifetime of pain and limited motion. Instead, my parents chose to treat my scoliosis with thoughtfulness, respecting the body’s amazing, innate ability to heal itself when nurtured and cared for with gentleness. This decision to go against conventional doctors’ suggestions began a lifetime of education with no regrets.

Since the age of nine, I have experienced the hands of many practitioners as they use their techniques to put motion back into the joints of my spine, loosen tight muscles, break up ineffective muscle patterns, and influence the cerebral spinal fluid carrying nutrients through the central nervous system. From all the many hands that have passed over my body through the years, I have gained an education that can only be learned through experience and gained through trust of one’s own intuition. I have learned when I am receiving healing versus therapy, and with Kim I definitely received healing.

I had received the ten series some time back in Oregon with remarkable changes in my structure. This past summer, I moved to Michigan and was looking for a healer who did bodywork. After going through a handful of therapists, I finally found Kim. My goal was cosmetic and the results were encouraging. After only three sessions, my wedding dress hung on me naturally and my awareness of holding patterns had heightened. Kim took before and after pictures and the evidence was concrete. My facial structure went from long and rigid to soft and natural, my left ribcage went from protruding anterior with right rotation, to a gentle evenness with a very slight rotation, my hips evened out causing my wedding dress to need no more alterations, and most of all I was reminded how the body has an amazing ability to heal when given the proper care and information. Kim has healing hands that together with her knowledge of how the body works creates a dynamic experience. She is totally selfless respecting the body’s need for time to heal. I have always held on to the belief that one day I would find someone that would help me metamorphosis from this abnormally curved spine to a straight and “normal” spine. However, through the years I have learned that through our perception, we create our own realities. For me, my reality is that my spine is normal figured, it functions as well if not better than many others’ spines, and with the gifts of people like Kim, I will continue to be active and pain free.

- Nancy Caruso

“I can even pick up and hug my grandchildren!”

I met Kim Hicks 12 or 13 years ago. I was referred to her by one of my doctors. I had been having back troubles for several years and he thought Rolfing might help. I had had laminectomy and still had significant back problems. I hadn’t been able to play tennis or golf in several years because of my back and was always on cold packs or heating pads. My first session with Kim was painful because of all of my restrictions. After the session was over, the pain from the session was gone and I noticed a marked improvement in my “normal” pain and stiffness. It was the first of a series of ten sessions. With each session, I had more flexibility and less back pain. By the end of those first ten sessions, I was able to play golf and tennis again, as well as take car trips. My back pain was minimal. Since then, I have gone back for a three-session series once or twice a year and have terrific mobility and can even pick up and hug my grandchildren.

- Judee Weinstem

“I could not believe the changes.”

I first met Kim about twelve years ago. We were co-workers. I must admit my initial impression was, “She’s kinda out there – cosmic.” You see, I was very traditional. The closest thing I had experienced to alternate forms of treatment was chiropractic performed after a water skiing injury.

My next back injury occurred at age 26. I, of course, chose to be treated conservatively with physical therapy, which did help. Then, about three years later, the simple task of changing bed sheets led me down the path of anti-inflammatones, days off work, MRIs, and physical therapy. After two months of therapy for herniated, degenerative lumber discs, I felt pretty good. (Good except for the nagging burning in my low back & leg which I thought I would just have to live with. Not so!)

After a few months of convincing, I finally decided to give Rolfing® a try. What did I have to lose? I knew that there were no guarantees. I also knew I had the option to stop at certain steps along the way. But most importantly for me was that by this time, I knew Kim. She was a kind, compassionate, talented healer. I felt that she believed she could help me.

After my ten sessions were completed, I could not believe the changes. To begin with, I no longer experienced the burning in my lower body. Good posture was no longer an effort. I often describe the sensation as feeling like my upper body was stacked correctly on my legs. Movements were no longer strained. Lastly, I got to know Kim. Not only does she have a remarkable skill, she’s also an amazing, spiritual, intuitive, selfless professional. In the years since, I took Kim as a resource, confidant, and friend. However, I’m still not an easy nut to crack. Recently, after a ten year hiatus, I decided to return to rolfing for a tune up – or an over haul as the case may be. My body had slid into a series of episodes of low back, leg, neck, knee, and shoulder pain with a side dish of migraines. So, why did I wait so long? Stubborn, I suppose. Self conscious about my body, probably stupid to not think Rolfing when I first began having problems again, absolutely.

Since my three series this past April, I have had three tension headaches, one episode of knee pain after straining, and no back, leg, neck, or shoulder pain. I feel I owe this reprieve to Kim. She has continued to advance her skills through seminars, work shops, teaching, mentoring, and hands on experience. And yes, I’ve learned my lesson. I have scheduled a follow up series for the fall. I have finally realized that Rolfing® can be used as a preventative method of pain relief. Imagine that! But seriously, if it hadn’t been for Kim’s patience, support, and understanding over the years, I would not be at this point. I thank her for changing the quality of my life.

- Denise Brown, P.T.
June 2004