frequently asked questions
Who gets Rolfed?
I’ve worked with people aged 3 to 80, with those who are coping with significant challenges such as Parkinson’s, stroke recovery, or severe trauma from accidents and injury, as well as those who are in excellent health but are interested in Rolfing to enhance their athletic performance, to deepen their personal journey through bodywork, or to just plain improve their posture.
It’s a pretty diverse group. However, through this broad group I can say that there has been a theme that runs through most everyone’s story: what I call the domino experience. The domino experience is what it sounds like; usually a person starts off feeling less-than-better with a specific ‘thing’. It could be pain that popped up and surprised you like neck spasms or low back pain, or an injury or other event that knocked you for a loop. Nonetheless, what I’m trying to get at is that there’s a ‘first thing’ which usually goes through fluctuations of feeling better and worse over time. Occasionally it even disappears. Then, with no warning, the first thing flares up and it often brings along a friend: the new ‘thing’ or ‘things’.
This “structural domino effect” is incredibly common. Its root cause is a myriad of compensatory patterns that have flown under the radar for most of one’s life until they got too agitated to be ignored any longer.
What is a session like?
At your first Rolfing session we’ll spend the first ten or fifteen minutes going over your health history and talking about your goals for the work. Once we’ve had some time to chat, I’ll observe you walking and standing still. This helps me to see what patterns and compensations are happening in your body so that I can get a sense for what you need in order to achieve greater balance and openness.
Then I will give you a chance to undress down to your underwear (bra and underwear for women) and to get on the table. The work itself is very slow work, and so the session proceeds that way- with me tracking your response either with my hands and eyes and/or by checking in with you verbally.
We work on the body differently in each session, but it’s not compartmentalized work. For example, we wouldn’t progress from one session to the next as if you are a stack of blocks; working first on the feet, in the next session on the knees, the next session after that is the hips, etc. Rather we’re working related lines of the body as they support you in gravity. One way I frequently describe it is that Rolfing is like the chess of bodywork in that it’s very strategic. If I do some work on your foot, for example, my next step before doing anything else is to track the impact that the foot work had on the rest of your body. By noticing how the opening in your foot impacted your body, I’ll decide what to do next. Besides tracking how you’re responding, I also determine how to proceed in a session based on knowledge of fascial (connective tissue) anatomy.
What does a session cost and how long do sessions last?
Sessions are $150 and last an hour. A first session (which is the same rate) usually runs closer to 75 minutes to allow additional time for the health intake and postural analysis.
Please note that on the online booking form each session is designated as 75 minutes, but it’s only set up that way so that I have a time cushion to keep me from running late for anyone.
Do you take insurance?
Unfortunately, no. In the state of Connecticut Rolfing is licensed as a form of massage therapy (though in the bodywork world we are not considered a form of massage therapy but rather a form of Structural Integration- but clearly different laws for every form of manual therapy in every state would be challenging so we get put under certain umbrellas...) As such, we are not covered by nearly all insurance companies these days.
On the bright side, any health care savings plan that you have set up can often be used for Rolfing. I can provide receipts for the deduction.(*This depends on each individual HSA, so you'll have to check with your HSA in advance to see if Rolfing could be submitted.)
What do I wear?
Because people will be asked to move around some during a session, Rolfing is done partially clothed. Most people wear underwear that they’re comfortable in (for women a bra and underwear). If you prefer more coverage, you can also wear athletic shorts and, for women, a tank top. Long and short sleeved shirts, pants (even yoga pants), and shorts of a thicker cargo-type material don't work.
Does it hurt?
Everyone’s favorite question to ask about Rolfing! First let me say that nearly every new client who comes to see me arrives nervous and leaves saying, “I don’t know what I was so worried about!”
While Rolfing is deep work that can sometimes feel intense (though that lasts briefly most of the time), it is not fast, rough, abusive, or what I would call "painful". The reason for putting "painful" in quotations is because there’s a very clear distinction between “good pain”, or pain that comes from opening an area that is stuck and glued together, and “bad pain”, which is what we usually think of when we hear the word “pain”. This is pain from injury. Rolfing does not cause this kind of pain. “Bad pain” is what causes most people to seek out this work!
Thus, in addressing areas that are already in pain (of the bad variety) and opening up areas that have significant compensations, it can be briefly uncomfortable.That said, it is important to bear in mind that Rolfing is not so much something I do to you, as something that happens in partnership. That means that if some portion of the work is too intense for you, there is always another way to approach it. Always.
In case you're interested in a little history, to be fair, this rumor about Rolfing and pain does come from somewhere. When Rolfing was first being taught, it was an emerging modality that was characterized as “deep” and because of this practitioners often made “deep” and “push harder” synonymous, when the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. This way of working gave Rolfing a reputation for being painful, and unfortunately that reputation has lingered even as the work has evolved. Pushing harder than necessary only makes the body tense up, which means it is counterproductive since you can’t access tissue layers on a tensed up body. To work deeply means that you have to work very patiently and slowly. Current fascial research has helped us to understand just how we can most effectively effect tissue (we now know less is more for example), and current education and practice reflect that.
What does it feel like?
Oftentimes words aren’t the best at articulating physical sensation, but I’ll give it my best shot. The sensation varies quite a bit through the session from very light and subtle, to stronger pressure that, at its most intense, can feel slightly burning-esque. My clients also frequently describe feeling like they are in a deep stretch, feeling pleasant tingling and the warmth of blood flow returning to an area, and feeling pleasant “un-snagging” or “un-hooking” sensations at areas that are distal from where we are directly working.
Because of the variation in intensity throughout a session, people don’t feel overwhelmed. As your practitioner, I’m always tracking your response and working very consciously with you. As I mentioned, this work also happens very slowly. Watching a Rolfing session is like watching paint dry, so there aren’t any sudden movements or surprises.
Is there anyone who shouldn’t get Rolfed and is anything contraindicated?
In general Rolfing is best at treating things that are not in the acute stage. What that means is that if you’ve had an injury or a surgery in the last couple of weeks and you still have a good deal of swelling, then it’s best to wait until your initial healing response has a chance to do its job while you follow up with your doctor or surgeon through their acute treatment protocol.
Similarly, if you have any autoimmune conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis or chronic fatigue syndrome) that are presently in an intense flare-up, it’s best to wait for the inflammatory stage to pass.
Those who are currently undergoing treatment for cancer are also not good candidates for Rolfing.
Lastly, in my experience neuropathy caused via chemical means, such as from chemotherapy, does not respond to Rolfing.
*If you’re reading this and are disheartened because one of these conditions describes you and you don’t know what to do next, don’t hesitate to contact me. I have a referral list of outstanding practitioners in a myriad of specialities who may be able to assist you. Each situation is unique, so I prefer to talk to you individually so that I can suggest what can be of the most benefit to your situation.
What’s this I hear about ten sessions?
Dr. Rolf designed Rolfing to happen in a ten-series format as a way of ensuring that the whole body is attended to. It was also primarily created as a teaching tool so that her students could start thinking and seeing structurally. Her reason for doing this was to ensure that clients will have significant and long lasting change in how the body looks, moves, and feels. Ultimately as Rolfers we’re always looking to transform people’s bodies into better self-healing mechanisms.
Because I have been in practice for a number of years I am not particularly rigid or conventional about the ten series. As one of my teachers once said, “We must not cling too tightly to our models.” However I still find that people benefit from a series of sessions that looks at how that person is utilizing or not utilizing lines of fascial support in the body.
What I usually tell people is to try between 1 and 3 sessions so that they can get a feel for how they respond to the work and we can go from there.
How far apart are sessions spaced?
When people first seek out Rolfing for a particular issue they usually do a series of sessions spaced one to two weeks apart until their issue and their alignment has resolved or improved. For most this still winds up being in the neighborhood of ten sessions. People have spaced this initial grouping of sessions as far apart as one a month, but sometimes at that interval we lose some of our momentum in making the changes happen. Then again, sometimes it works out just fine. We will have a better idea of what interval works for you as we see how you respond to sessions.
After people have done this initial series of work to get their body more fully aligned, people then do “tune up” sessions at whatever interval makes sense for them. Some people like to have a regular session set up monthly or bi-monthly, while others will only want or need to get tune up sessions a handful of times per year.
Why do you need to work on the whole body?
The only reason we bother being so particular about attending to the whole is because all things are connected (honest, it’s not just an airy-fairy idea, if your arm is in a different room than the rest of you, something pretty lousy has happened…) and without attention paid to the connections between things, whatever is symptomatic for you can’t heal fully. This means that ultimately you would spend only more rather than less time visiting practitioners like me, as the Band-aid approach is never the most efficient way to deal with any problem.
For example, say you come in for neck pain. As I look at your posture, I can see that you’re holding your head way out in front of you. Depending on the size of your head, that’s 8 to 12 lbs suspended out in space that your neck has to work very hard to support. Because your head is ideally designed to be effortlessly supported by your spine, this forward head alignment means that certain muscles are supporting significantly more weight than they are designed to. They rebel by going into spasm. If I were to address this by taking the compartmentalized view, I would work only on those particular tight muscles. Unfortunately, if no attention is paid to changing the orientation of your head and neck, those neck muscles are going to get really tight again, really quickly.
As Rolfers, we’re much more interested in getting your head in alignment with the rest of your body so that when the neck muscles relax, they can stay that way. To do that we’ve got to look at a base of support for your head through your feet, pelvis, core, thorax, shoulder girdle- you get the idea- the whole body. At the end of the day, we Rolfers are a pretty pragmatic bunch. Our primary goal is just to see things get better and stay better for as long as possible.