"Open systems , like organismes need to be explained by other rules and laws than closed systems." Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Scientific research on Rolfing is encouraged and supported by the Rolf Institute and there is a small, but growing, body of research which supports many of the claims of Rolfing. Research conducted at UCLA showed that Rolfing creates a more efficient use of the muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates more economical and refined patterns of movement (3).
More recent research conducted at the University of Maryland demonstrated that Rolfing significantly reduces chronic stress and changes body structure for the better(4,5,6). In this study, Rolfing significantly reduced the spinal curvature of subjects with lordosis (sway back). The research also indicates that Rolfing enhances neurological functioning. Surprisingly, these changes in structure and function are long lasting and rarely require further maintenance sessions.
Some of this research supports the idea that holistic manual therapy based on the Rolf method not only has a more long term effects on the body, but that is also has a more integrative effect that in fact contributes to this long term effect. A case study indicates that a holistic approach using Rolfing and movement education shows greater promise in treating low back pain than the corrective approach. (1) Another case study combines philosophical counseling and Rolfing manual therapy for the treatment of ALS. (2) In this study the taxonomies of assessment are operationalized and used in conjunction with the principles of intervention to demonstrate how a holistic approach that is sensitive to the whole person can improve function through changing a patient’s worldview.
1. Cottingham JT, Maitland JA: Three-paradigm Treatment Model Using Soft Tissue Mobilization and Guided Movement-Awareness Techniques For A Patient With Chronic Low Back Pain: A Case Study. Journal of Orthopedic And Sports Physical Therapy, 1997;26:155-167
2. Cottingham JT, Maitland JA: Integrating Manual and Movement Therapy With Philosophical Counseling For Treatment Of A Patient With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: A Case Study That Explores The Principles of Holistic Intervention. Alternative Therapies In Health and Medicine, 2000,6(2).
3. Hunt V, Massey W: A Study of Structural Integration from a Neuromuscular Energy Field and Emotional Approaches. Boulder: Rolf Institute, 1977
4. Cottingham JT, Porges SW, Lyon T: Soft Tissue Mobilization (Rolfing Pelvic Lift) And Associated Changes In Parasympathetic Tone In Two Age Groups. Physical Therapy. 1988;68:352, 356
5. Cottingham JT, Porges SW, Richmond K: Shifts In Pelvic Inclination Angle And Parasympathetic Tone Produced By Rolfing Soft Tissue Manipulation. Physical Therapy. 1988;68:1364, 1370
6. Cottingham JT: Effects Of Soft Tissue Mobilization On Pelvic Inclination Angle, Lumbar Lordosis, And Parasympathetic Tone. Presented at the National Center of Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD, March 19, 1992