Many of the responses to Jan Sultan’s letter (Rolf Lines, March 1983) express concern over the matter of using rolfing to fix or alleviate symptoms. I think it would be helpful in this continuing dialogue for each of us to define these terms when we use them. If to “fix” means to stop pain as quickly and fully as possible, I’m 100% for that. In my experience, the only way to “fix” a symptom is to organize the structure using the vision of soft tissue and alignment to gravity that Ida taught us. If someone has a whiplash, for instance, you can’t establish a functional alignment without fixing their whiplash. Likewise, you can’t permanently fix their whiplash without organizing their entire structure.
The concepts and tools that Ida taught us are the most powerful tools that I am aware of for dealing with soft tissue problems. Essentially Dr. Rolf trained us as specialists in connective tissue and functional structure. No other field of health directly addresses and works with problems in this area. Why should we deny this when the proof is right at our fingertips?
In my opinion, addressing a person’s specific problems (such as whiplash or sciatica) makes them aware of the larger concepts of rolfing. This almost always motivates them to resolve the cause of their symptoms by embarking on the basic series of sessions. Acknowledging a person’s specific problem also puts us into an area where insurance companies and the medical community can understand the value of rolfing for their patients (and claimants), not just for temporary relief but for a more permanent resolution to their problem. If we as rolfers genuinely wish to have a broad beneficial impact on humanity, we must stop being so reticent about the power of rolfing to correct many common structural problems. Instead of an either/or approach to rolfing (either rolfing “fixes”, or it “evolves” someone), I think it is time that we embrace a both/and attitude rolfing both fixes people and it evolves them. We are not compromising the integrity of rolfing by admitting that rolfing “works” that, yes, indeed, it fixes problems. We know that it does a lot more, too, but that shouldn’t stop us from owning up to the fact that we provide a great service to people by relieving their pain so that normal functioning can be restored.
Frankly, I’m sick and tired of having to fight to get rolfing recognized by the system as being a legitimate therapeutic medium. Given the current situation, why should we expect that an insurance claims processor should know what a “certified rolfer” is and why the company should pay claims for rolfing. In the 10 years that I’ve been in practice, I’ve seen other alternative therapies such as acupuncture join the mainstream and become recognized for its therapeutic value while in all this time rolfing has remained on the fringe, still considered by the public and medical community as an esoteric frill for those who have the money to “evolve” themselves.
Let’s go for whatever it takes to make rolfing an accepted mode of physical treatment in America today. This means being much more active in the area of licensing, owning our pre-training, and encouraging independent studies which can show measureable results of the effects of rolfing on traumas like whiplash. Let’s not keep knowledge of the full spectrum of benefits of rolfing from the world at large. If we truly want the work of Dr. Rolf to flourish we must enter the mainstream.
Santa Fe, N.M.Letter from Carter Beckett