Ever heard of Rolfing?
You read correctly, Rolf. I certainly hadn’t when my CrossFit trainer suggested I meet with his “Rolfer”. I was a bit wary making my first appointment, as Rolfing sounded like something that is illegal in most States!
A word that seems better suited to describing the hurling you do after working out too hard, Rolf is the practice of working with the connective tissue that surrounds our muscle sets. The practice, named for its founder, Dr. Ida Rolf, works to help loosen and realign the connective tissue, called fascia, that surrounds and penetrates our muscles, bones, nerves, and even organs.
I have been having terrible trouble with tight calves, especially on my left side, following months of severe nerve damage from a herniated disc. I have made tremendous recovery following the days when walking was painful and difficult, but haven’t regained the ability to run more than a few miles at a time without experiencing near debilitating pain.
After months of compensating for my very weak left side, I no doubt formed all sorts of bad behaviors resulting in my body alignment being out of whack. After learning more about the theory behind Rolfing I figured I needed the help it would provide.
As my Rolfing-trained specialist, Paul Fitzgerald of Peninsula Rolfing, explains, the therapy is provided over 10 weeks. Each week focuses on another region of the body, such as legs, core, or back. I’m about half-way through. While I can’t say that I feel like a new person, I do feel a difference in my ability to move my body. Just the other night at CrossFit I noticed that I was able to go much deeper than usual into my hip flexor stretches.
A few things to know before you get Rolfed:
- Rolfing is best described as a “dry rub” – like a massage without any lubricant. This means it hurts. And in a weird way. It’s not for the faint of heart.
- Since Rolfing gets at areas of the body that often never get worked – such as your deep abdomen – you will feel a little sore for up to a week after each session. It’s not too bad, but does affect full range of movement.
- Deep tissue massage or trigger point massage loosens the muscles, but not the fascia which can still restrict muscle movement. It’s like squishing an orange – while the innards will turn to juice, the outside is still rather stiff. (Ok, not the best analogy, but you get the idea).
- The cost can be prohibitive – often around $150 a session – since many insurance plans don’t cover it. However, it can often be included in a Flexible Savings Account (FSA) with a prescription from a doctor.
- Rolfing has been around since the early 1900s and grew in popularity in the 1970s, so has proven itself. It’s not something brand new with no scientific backing. More about the science behind the practice can be found here: Link
Of course, Rolfing isn’t the answer alone. Nothing is. I still need to integrate more stretching into my day, make sure I don’t sit for more than 30 minutes without getting up and moving around for a few minutes, and keep up my strength training. Yet I feel Rolfing is a significant step towards being healthy and active again.
Who knew something that sounded so strange could be so good for you?