Why Doesn't My Back Hurt Today? Oh yeah, I GOT ROLFED!

I've gotten my hopes up so many times that I look on anyone with a massage table and a face donut with intense skepticism. But Rolfing could be different? Right?

Jul 12, 2013 at 12:00pm | Leave a comment

As many of you may know, I'm a walking, talking accident waiting to happen. 
 
In my 31 years I've managed to:
 
Break all of my toes 
 
Break my foot while walking off the edge of a stage
 
Break the same foot while crossing the street 
 
Break my pinky finger with a rubber mallet 
 
Acquire labral tears in both my hips
 
Fall off a horse and squash the nerves in my back
 
Suffer from Pseudo Seizures (which are not as fake as they sound) 
 
Annually lose my right pinky toenail 
 
When I told my husband I wanted to go sky diving, he looked at me in wide-eyed horror and begged me to reconsider because with my luck, sure my parachute will deploy, but it will be a Persian cat instead of a parachute. 
 
Anyway, a few months ago, when I wrote about getting stuck on my bathroom floor the Wonderful Human Beings I am Not Worthy to Call My Friends all pitched in some cash to send me to a Rolfer. 
 
What is Rolfing you ask?
 
 
Named after its founder, Dr. Ida P. Rolf...
...Rolfing Structural Integration works on this web-like complex of connective tissues to release, realign and balance the whole body, thus potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain.
Essentially, the Rolfing process enables the body to regain the natural integrity of its form, thus enhancing postural efficiency and your freedom of movement.

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This Block Man basically sums it up.

 
Now I know, I know, there is not such thing as magic cure-all body work. I've gotten my hopes up so many times that I look on anyone with a massage table and a face donut with intense skepticism. But for the past few years I'd been longing to go to a Rolfer. After all my accidents, my body was lopsided, and aches and pains had become a normal, everyday thing. Rolfing could be different? Right?
 
So when my darling hippy-dippy friends sent me this stupidly wonderful card in the mail:
 
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I was both elated and a little scared. What if I got Rolfed and all I came away with was a pricey deep tissue massage? But I had a check in my sweaty little hand, and I really had nothing to lose. So I booked myself a Rolfing appointment. This is my experience.
 
PRE TREATMENT
 
When I arrived at my Rolfer's home/office she ushered me into her office, a bright, tidy cove just off of the treatment room, and asked me why I wanted to get Rolfed. 
 
I told her all the things I detailed above -- I was tired of being in pain, I felt crooked, and I felt as if I'd never really gone back to normal after my various falls and breaks. 
 
After nodding and jotting down some notes, my Rolfer, a tall woman with muscular arms and youthful looking hands who looked to be in her mid-50s, walked me into the treatment room where I stripped down to the sensible underpants and sports bra that I had worn for the occasion. 
 
I noted the massage table and face donut and moved on. 
 
TREATMENT
 
First she asked me to stand as straight as I could, and really try to sink into the ground with my feet, all the while telling me to let go and keep breathing. 
 
Have you noticed how when someone tells you to "relax and let go" you start thinking about it and JUST CAN'T? 
 
My Rolfer stood in front of me, then to my side and scrutinized how I was standing. Then she asked me to hold onto the wall in front of me and lift my right leg, and then my left. She quietly mentioned something about how my left side appeared weaker than my right then asked me to lie down, face up on the massage table. 
 
She proceeded to look at my prone body  how I imagine a chef decides to quarter a pheasant, before putting her hands under my neck and head. 
 
With every inhale and exhale she manipulated my neck and head, like she was coaxing it longer. It was not painful, but persistent. Unlike a massage, there was no really closing my eyes and drifting off into bliss. She kept a quiet, but open line of communication, telling me where to "place my breath," and continually asking me to surrender more into her hands. 
 
I really did feel like my neck was pulling out of my body. There was a sort of deep release in the connection between my neck and skull that I had never felt. I went from feeling like a scared turtle to an ostrich. (Does that make sense? Or does that just sound like a penis joke?)
 
As she continued, I started to wonder where the pain was. I had heard that Rolfing could be terribly painful, almost unbearable. But aside from the continuous pressure, it was not painful. I was even a little disappointed that it didn't hurt more, as I'm the kind of person who really likes "the good pain." However, I just mentally shrugged it off, and kept "surrendering," as I'd read that modern Rolfing was no longer as painful as it was in Ida Rolf's day.
 
Oh, I was not to be disappointed. 
 
After working on my neck, head, and shoulders for what felt like about 20 minutes, she moved on to my low back, the root of my pain.
 
She began to use her strong and nimble fingers to manipulate the tissue around the bottom of my spine and my sacrum. So the general ass-crack region. 
 
I'm not exactly sure what was happening down there, she kept talking to me, asking what I felt and if where she touched was okay with me, but I felt an intense pulling and the same time, pressure.
 
Then she asked if she could reach between my legs with one arm to manipulate the fascia (webby connective tissue) just above my left buttock. I obliged. She lifted my left leg up and simultaneously worked on the tissue that was just below my left butt bone. I think the insertion point of my leg into my pelvis.
 
OKAY. Now things were getting interesting. She kept checking in with me and asking me to try to relax, but every time I let go a little more she would work a little deeper with the bones and the tissue and the muscles and WHATEVER ELSE IS DOWN THERE, and I'd feel as if she was literally try to reach down through my flesh to grab a hold of my thigh bone. 
 
Was it painful? Yes but no. It was more an intensity of sensation that I couldn't define in the moment (she kept lightly tapping me on my forehead to relax my brown and "stop thinking so hard"). 
 
Eventually the thigh bone grabbing stopped, and she continued to gently lengthen and manipulate my right hip, my legs, my shoulders, then one last time my neck. 
 
At some point, and I'm not sure when, I noticed that my lower back was contacting the table. This may sound like no big deal, but like I said I'm pretty swaybacked. My back usually does not entirely touch the ground if I'm lying "flat" on the floor, and it always looks like I'm sticking my butt out. 
 
But now, without my even thinking about it, my entire back was contacting the table.
 
Holy shit. 
 
The session then came to an end and she slowly asked me to sit up on the edge of the table and walk slowly around the room. I feel a bit silly saying this, but walking around the room felt SO EASY. 
 
Typically when I walk, my gait is what some have described as "waddling." But just walking around my Rolfer's room, I felt FLUID. I kept touching my my back which is typically like I said, arched, and tense, but now it felt soft, straighter. 
 
POST TREATMENT
 
As I got dressed, I noticed that the pain in my body was not entirely gone, but dulled, and I felt invigorated, like after a short workout, but not weary. I felt looser. 
 
My Rolfer told me that my body would be working through what we did in that session for a couple days and to not engage in strenuous exercise for a while. "No problem," I drooled. 
 
As we finished up our business, and I appreciated that she did indeed keep it as business-like as something like this can be, I dreaded the oncoming recommendation to see her next week or the week after. 
 
However, she told me very matter-of-factly that if I never saw another Rolfer again, my body would still benefit from this single session. She told me about the standard 10 session Rolfing treatment, but did not pressure me into my next visit. 
 
This may be all part of her selling tactic, but I choose to think that she was simply being up front with a person on an admittedly tight budget. 
 
She walked me to the front door, we exchanged a pleasant but quick goodbye and I was on my way. 
 
In the week since, I've been paying very close attention to my body. I keep waiting for that old swayback to return, and the familiar aches to come back into my hips. But one week out, and while the pain is not gone, everything continues to feel "soft."
 
I still can't believe how straight my back is and that my neck hasn't receded into my chest. And this may sound crazy, but I'm actually breathing easier. 
 
Is it snake oil? Did it fix all that ails me? No. Did it ease some of what ails me? Yes. Was it worth my friends' money? Yes. Am I still a little lopsided? Yes. Would I recommend it? Yes. Will I try to save up money (my treatment ran $130) and do it again? I would like to. 
 
So that's my Rolfing story. 
 
I wanted to share this with you because when I searched the interweb, I found very few details (in English) as to what the experience might be like. I'm sure it's different for everybody, but this at least was how it went down for me. If you're thinking about seeing a Rolfer, I hope this helped. 
 
Have any of you ever been to a Rolfer? What was your experience? Have the effects lasted for you? 
Posted in Healthy