Chronic pain is one of the leading physical ailments in the United States, interfering with work, daily activities, and recreational life, and costing Americans billions of dollars a year. Nearly everyone at some point is afflicted with some short term pain, and many suffer with chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts for more than three months. Many will have these problems for years and even decades.
Chronic pain can be debilitating and depressing, but it does not have to be a life sentence. When people have chronic pain, they look to experts who can assess the causes and not the symptoms. Over the past sixty years, over a million people have gone to Rolfing Structural Integration to address their chronic pain. Rolfing is a unique form of body and movement therapy that is specifically designed to correct the body’s long standing patterns of holding and strain and restore the body’s alignment in gravity.
When you have chronic pain, it means your body is out of alignment with gravity, fighting against itself and creating chronic strain. When pain becomes chronic, the cause is no longer one specific issue. Instead, the entire body has become out of alignment, first compensating for the pain and now fighting itself. To solve chronic pain, you cannot chase the symptom. You need to correct the body’s misalignment and reeducate how the body moves so it no longer is creating an environment for pain to arise in. By restoring your body’s alignment, you are able to stand taller with ease, and the binding and holding in your body can relax, allowing to finally surrender the pain it has been binding against.
Finding a Rolfing Practitioner and getting the proper treatment is critical.
- find a person who is a Certified Rolfing Practitioner of Structural Integration
- commit to a series of sessions
- your homework
- be actively engaged with the Rolfing
- make time to rest and integrate what you are learning
- strain or effort in your sessions
- overdo it after sessions
- sit still for long periods of time
- space your sessions to far apart
- make radical changes right away
Only people who are properly trained can address your chronic pain by properly restoring your body’s structural alignment. You need to see someone who has a complete understanding how a body adapts to strain over time, a method for assessing the body’s strain, and a strategy based on structural principles that will restore the body’s alignment. It is one thing to take something apart; it is another to know how to put it together in a way that will work and last. Simply releasing tension in the body’s musculature and fascia with traditional massage, exercise or physical therapy is not sufficient. Search for practitioners who are Certified Rolfing Practitioners. Don’t settle for someone who just has some training. Seek out professionals with the proper credentials and educational background.
Once you find a Rolfing Practitioner, commit to doing a series of sessions. Get an initial evaluation session and determine together with your Rolfing Practitioner a course of treatment. Most individuals should do the fundamental Ten Session Series, a series of sessions that over ten sessions thoroughly realigns the body. However, some individuals may do a shorter series of three to five sessions first, and others may need more work. You are realigning and reeducating how your body stands and moves. You need consistent input so your body does not forget what it is learning.
As your body becomes straighter and better aligned, it needs to learn how to maintain those changes. New habits of movement need to be established. When your Rolfing Practitioner gives you homework to do, it is important that you do it. There will be small exercises to do on your own, short movement explorations and activities to remind you of what your body discovered in the last session. This homework integrates the work you have done and will set the tone for the work ahead, making you more receptive to deeper changes and better relief from your pain.
When you are improving the alignment of your body, you are changing the shape of your body and learning how to move and live with those new changes. Be willing to ask questions of your Rolfing Practitioner. If he or she is pointing out something about your body’s structure and you do not understand, ask for clarification. Real learning and change happen when you not only show up for the work but when you invest yourself in it.
Your body will need time to integrate what it is learning. Old habits of posture and movement, particularly ones associated with chronic pain, are deeply embedded in our nervous system. We need time to unwind those patterns. So carve out some time after sessions and between sessions to rest and simply be. Slow walks are a great way to integrate the changes you are going through.
Deep changes in your body’s alignment don’t take hold if you are straining or efforting. It is that very straining and efforting that has kept you in pain. You want to be receptive to the work you are receiving. Some of the Rolfing will feel light and pleasurable, some will feel like just pressure on the body, and some of the work might feel uncomfortable as deeply held restrictions open. But you should not feel like you are bracing or straining to receive the work. And when you are asked to assist the work with movement, do it slowly, deliberately. It is the quality of the movement that matters. You want to move with precision, ease and patience, not force and strain.
After Rolfing sessions, you can feel quite tired or you can feel utterly fabulous. Regardless, don’t go out and overdo it after sessions. Just because you feel great, it doesn’t mean your body knows how to use what has just learned. New habits of movement take time to integrate. If you strain too much too soon, e.g. you work out at the gym extra hard, or put extra hours in at work, you will end up recruiting patterns of movement that got you into chronic pain in the first place.
It is important to get rest and time integrate after Rolfing sessions, but do not be sedentary. A common cause of chronic pain is remaining still for too long. For example, over years thousands of hours in a chair at a computer take their toll on the body. Be active, move around, take breaks, stretch and walk. This does not mean you need to be always on the go. The body likes and needs a balance of activity and rest. Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking a day with min breaks to stretch and move and you will be off to a good start.
When going the a series of Rolfing sessions, you want the sessions to be relatively close together. In the beginning, ideally you should do sessions once a week and then spread the sessions out to once every two to three weeks when you and your Rolfing Practitioner see that you are ready. Too much time between sessions makes it more likely that you will fall back into patterns of posture and movement that have been causing your pain.
Once you are start to transform your body, you will stand and move in new ways, and experience being in the world from a fresh perspective. Enjoy this transition and don’t be in a rush to force it along. Transformation has it’s own pace and rhythm.
Chronic pain can be debilitating and depressing but it does not have to be a life sentence. Rolfing Structural Integration can help resolve long standing patterns of strain and discomfort by restoring your natural alignment in gravity and teaching you and your body how to move with greater ease and efficiency. Finding a Certified Rolfing Practitioner and successfully going through a Rolfing series will move you out of your pain and into the life you want.