It’s been a fantastic three days for news coverage of Rolfing SI in the San Francisco Bay Area. First, on December 4, the San Jose Mercury News re-published the October 7, 2010, New York Times Style Section piece about Rolfing SI. Here are some highlights from the article.

Popular in the 1970s, Rolfing once evoked hairy-chested, New Age types seeking alternative therapies — perhaps most famously spoofed in the 1977 football movied “Semi-Tough,” starring Burt Reynolds and Kris Kristofferson. Today, Rolfing is experiencing a resurgence, especially among younger city dwellers.

I found the clip from “Semi-Tough” the article refers to on YouTube. Here, actress Lotte Lenya (spoofing Ida Rolf, Ph.D.) plays Clara Pelf who’s professional corporation is named the “Institute of Muscular Harmony.” Near the end of the clip notice the sculpture to the left of the front door titled “The Unreconstructed Body.” Is this scene one of the reasons why Rolfing SI continues to be hindered by a reputation for being extremely painful? People, this is satire! Est, pyramid power, and Doman-Delacato Patterning are also parodied in the movie.

Please excuse my veer off course, back to highlights from the New York Times article.

Russell Poses, a 39-year-0ld international equities trader on Wall Street, started getting Rolfing treatments after injuring his back. Chiropractors and years of physical therapy couldn’t accomplish what two or three Rolfing sessions did, he says. And he adds that he could still feel the results two weeks later. “It’s something that actually lasts,” he says.Rolfing SI on Oprah

The article also mentions the 2007 endorsement Rolfing SI received from cardiac surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

Then, on December 6, Rolfing SI was featured on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”  This piece titled “Rolfing Back In Vogue, But With Shaky Evidence” was produced by San Francisco’s own public radio station KQED with reporting by Sarah Varney. Varney took the time to actually examine some fascia at Stanford University’s cadaver lab.

It almost looks like the thin layer of white film you have after you debone a chicken and pull the skin off of it. If this person had bad posture or a chronic injury, Rolfers say the fascia would tighten, throwing off the person’s gait and possibly leading to lower back pain or other aches.

The story quotes UCSF physician Wolf Mehling as well as USC physical therapist Rob Landel who say not enough research has been done about Rolfing SI and that it “probably couldn’t stand up in a clinical trial.” This has touched off quite a response in the Rolfing community and I suggest you read the comments following the article.

For my part I will restate that Ida Rolf had Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Columbia University, and she worked as a Research Associate at Rockefeller Institute from 1919 to 1927 during which time she published fifteen research articles. One of the primary missions of The Rolf Institute is to promote programs of research in Rolfing Structural Integration. To that end The Rolf Institute is a proud sponsor of the Fascia Research Congress and also supports the Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation.

Here is a list of resources I have compiled about Rolfing SI and fascia research.

The Rolf Institute’s own guide to available research.

The Ida P. Rolf Research Foundation

Fascia Research Congress

Cell Biology Meets Rolfing – Science Magazine

Rolfing structural integration treatment of cervical spine dysfunction

Fascia Research Project at Ulm University

Reversal of repetitive motion strain via manual therapy

The Body Has a Mind of Its OwnI just returned from The 2009 Annual Membership Conference of The Rolf Institute® of Structural Integration. Award-winning science writer for The New York Times, Sandra Blakeslee, presented material from her newest book The Body Has a Mind of Its Own. Her explanation of body maps reveals new explanations for why structural integration works. Blakeslee’s book opens with the 1930s research of neuroscientist Wilder Penfield who mapped the brain’s somatosensory and motor cortexes, creating what we know as the homunculi, and covers up to the moment cutting edge research on out-of-body experiences, mirror neurons, and phantom limb phenomena.

The Body Has a Mind of Its Own was published at an opportune time for the structural integration community. It coincided with the first ever Fascia Research Congress held in Boston in October 2007. The Second International Fascia Research Congress is happening in Amsterdam, October 27-30, 2009.

Blakeslee herself, who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, was motivated to receive the Rolfing ten series because of a knee injury she sustained that left her unable to fully flex or extend her knee. Kudos to Sandra Blakeslee for inspiring us in the structural integration community and providing us with such valuable and timely information.

© Carole LaRochelle, 2009.