top of page

Beyond Pain

There’s much more to Rolfing than pain relief. This article expands on ideas from the "my approach" page.

It’s easy for pain itself to be the driver of what we seek from Rolfing, massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, etc. Yet, Ida Rolf said she wasn’t interested in “chasing pain”. She became known in the 1950s and 60s during the time of the Human Potential Movement, after she was brought to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California by Fritz Perls, who coined the term “Gestalt therapy”.


What you ultimately want to change in your body probably doesn’t simply relate to where the pain lies. My clients often have stories like this. Maybe their shoulder hurts, but they’ve always felt a little twisted in their core. Their right knee hurts, but their left foot and ankle don’t function well. I have a leg length difference with an extra 15 mm (0.6”) on my right leg. If there’s a recurring observation I’ve had about my body over the years since first finding Rolfing in 2008, it’s that my right pelvic girdle is being jammed up into my ribs. Yet, I can’t recall any notable pain from my right lower ribs or right abdomen. All the Rolfing sessions and other treatment modalities will never be able to change my leg length, but I can open up space to allow room to breathe, room for the abdominal muscles to work, and room for the organs to have motility. Dr. Rolf was once asked if she had to work on only one part of the body, what it would be. She answered what she called the “12th rib complex”, a pivotal area that reminds us of the body as a unified system instead of an amalgamation of parts. That’s where I’ve needed to open up.


One common observation among Rolfers is that pain often stems from areas of hypermobility or strain compensating for underlying imbalances elsewhere. Pain, in this context, serves as a signal of potential dysfunction. This makes sense since pain warns us of the possibility of damage, as it may be working too hard or moving too much. Often the part that’s truly locked up in your body is not what feels painful regularly.


10 is not a magic number. Many people find the pain relief they need in fewer than 10 sessions. Some need more. However, there may be a bigger goal you have for your body, and Rolfing can help you get there over time. I’m continually striving towards gaining as much adaptability, support, and space in my body as I can. With Rolfing, Foundation Training, healthier habits, and more knowledge, I’ve gradually opened up my right lower ribs. It’s made my breathing easier, I feel less tension in my head and hips, it’s helping to turn on my right lats, it lets my hips move more freely. It really isn’t about pain, but a quality of life I was missing.


I always appreciate when someone comes to me to help them on this journey, whether they’re at the beginning, somewhere down the road, or in a lighter maintenance phase. I see people with serious pain and traumas, and it’s fulfilling to have the opportunity to work with them and let them leave lighter and freer than when they arrived. I don’t claim that Rolfing will transform you, but it can be a great aid in your own self-transformation. I look forward to seeing you for a session.

bottom of page