Structural Integration - Deep Tissue Bodywork, Posture and Movement Education

"When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneosly, the body heals itself."
Ida Rolf, Ph.D.

Rolfing Follow Up

September 13, 2012 : Blog, News

By: Catherine Shaffer

When I was blogging my rolfing last spring, I think I left off around session eight of the ten. I guess that was because I was busy, and also I didn’t have much of anything remarkable to report. Session 9 and 10 are more of the same, once you’ve been through 1-8. The last three sessions are about integrating the changes already made, so the rolfer looks at longer lines of the body. Not just the shoulder, for example, but shoulder to toe. Not just the neck, but neck to pelvic floor, and so forth.

The biggest benefit I was hoping for from rolfing was improvement of my foot pain. It had gotten so limiting that I hated to even go shopping at the grocery store. The ubiquitous concrete floors would make my feet sore in less than half an hour, and the pain would linger for days, getting worse the more I tried to push it and ignore it.

I attributed my foot pain to a semi-chronic plantar fasciitis, a condition that would get better with rest, but flare up repeatedly, endlessly, any time I tried to do serious walking or running.

The rolfing sessions addressed my foot pain both directly and indirectly. The rolfer found a lot of knotted up tissue particularly in the right foot. She thought I’d injured that foot. Technically, she’s right. I had a hairline fracture of the heel when I was ten. Was that the root of problems three decades later? Hard to say.

The work also addressed imbalances in my back, shoulders, and hips that affected my gait.

For about a month following the last rolfing session, my foot pain shifted. Instead of plantar pain, I developed what seemed like a mild case of achilles tendonitis in both feet. I’ve had that before, so there was no need to go to the doctor. The treatment is rest and NSAIDs. I felt frustrated because here I had hoped that rolfing would cure my foot pain and it seemed to have given me a different kind.

Well, the tendonitis passed, and…drumroll. My feet are pain free. And they have been all summer. As proof, two weeks ago when I dropped my son off at camp, I ended up walking a couple miles around camp in my flimsy sandals. I had brought walking shoes, but between one thing and another, I didn’t get a chance to put them on.

Once upon a time, that kind of mistake would have had me limping for days. Not this time. I had only mild foot fatigue at the end of the day, and no lingering pain at all. I was dumbfounded. I had arranged my whole life around supportive shoes and limiting my walking range. Could I really have flaunted all of my rules with impunity?

Yes, yes I did. I flaunted them and lived to tell.

My feet are pain free. I’ve been enjoying long walks with the dogs, walks on concrete sidewalks, long days spent on my feet in flimsy shoes, and all the other privileges of people without foot pain. I am enjoying the sweet, sweet normalcy of life without a mildly disabling condition.

My analysis of the foot problem is that I did indeed have some chronic inflammation of the tissues and that probably also imbalances in my gait caused unnecessarily hard impacts with the walking surface. That would explain my exquisite sensitivity to concrete floors and sidewalks.

I recall the day after she really worked on my feet. My feet felt so soft. I felt like I was walking on cotton balls. (The changes of rolfing are best noted immediately afterwards. As your body integrates those changes, they become your new normal and are not noticeable except perhaps as an absence of pain.)

Another interesting thing that happened to my feet was that my “good” New Balance shoes stopped fitting. I wore them to North Carolina in July, expecting to be doing a lot of walking, and still following my old “rules,” but it soon became clear that the shoes were pinching my toes painfully. I thought at first that my feet were spreading yet again as I aged. (I gained a half size after having my son.)

When I went to buy new shoes, however, I found that New Balance shoes no longer fit me. Not one single pair in any size felt right. My feet had changed in some invisible way so that an entire style and brand of shoes no longer fit. I picked out a different brand of shoes in my usual size, instead, that I like quite well.

My personal data point is that rolfing absolutely cured my foot pain, and that was after many years of trying everything conventional medicine had to offer. (Yes, I had custom orthotics made. Twice.) I do think rolfing is absolutely worth a try if you have chronic foot pain, particularly if you’re getting no relief from conventional medicine. If you’ve never been rolfed, you do need to have all ten sessions at an average cost of about $100 per session. And sadly it’s not covered by insurance.

Now, a caveat to that is that my rolfer herself was a fellow sufferer of plantar fasciitis, and in spite of having had the ten series decades ago, and getting regular tuneups from her fellow rolfers, she still had ongoing foot pain at the time I was seeing her. So for her, ironically, rolfing was not a cure.

No promises, but rolfing is a great thing to try, especially for pain from old injuries or where you know you have a misalignment or imbalance in your body. It’s a good supplement to physical therapy, yoga, and chiropractic adjustment, as well.

[Go to Catherine Shaffer’s blog here]