Effects of Structural Integration on State-Trait Anxiety

From "Journal of Clinical Psychology"
Pages: 319-322
Year: 1979
Others publications and sources

Others publications and sources

From "Journal of Clinical Psychology"

Of the numerous new intervention techniques designed to improve the general well-being through postural alignment, Structural Integration has received rapid and popular acclaim. Structural Integration, or rolfing as it is popularly lagoon, is a technique for reordering the body so as to bring its major segments-head shoulder, thorax, pelvis and legs-into a finer vertical alignment. The theory and techniques of rolfing are derived from the elemental fact that human bodies are affected by the pull of gravity. If gravitational force is managed effectively through the lines of gravity, mechanical stress is minimized, which allows freedom of movement and economical use of energy (Hunt & Massey, 19, I). Rolfing consists of a carefully worked-out sequence of manipulations in which the roller reverses the randomizing influence of the environment by mooring tissue toward symmetry and balance (Pierce, Note 1). Thus, rolfing aims to create and maintain a more balanced energy system that conserves energy rather than expends it. To achieve this end, rolf practitioners concentrate on fascia and connective tissue and apply the necessary force with fingers, elbows, clenched fists and open hands.

The consequences of rolfing vary a great deal depending on the individual’s body structure; However, besides a change in the physiological and anatomical structure of the body, practicitioners and patients have claimed that rolfing causes psychological change as well. Rolf (1973) argues that emotional pain and anger often are repressed and held in the musculature at a physical level. Usually, painful blockages during rolfing betray areas that harbor residues of stressful emotional experiences. After rolfing, a great deal of this anger and resentment seem to disappear so that individuals can meet situations with less tension and anxiety. Despite these claims by practitioners and patients, no empirical studies have been conducted to determine whether Structural Integration causes a reduction in anxiety. Spielberger (1966) has argued that when one is assessing anxiety, one must distinguish between anxiety as a relatively stable disposition (trait anxiety) and as an immediate “right now” reaction. Therefore, it was the purpose of the present investigation to determine the effects of Structural Integration on state trait anxiety.



Ss were 48 volunteer students from universities in the Los Angeles area. Ss were randomly assigned to either an experimental (rolfing) or control group. There were 12 males and 12 females in both the experimental and control groups.


As Ss entered the laboratory they were asked to relax for 5 minutes and then were given the state anxiety and trait anxiety questionnaires (Spielberger, Gorsuch, & Lushene, 1970). Ss then were electroded on four sets of muscles with bipolar silver/silver chloride surface electrodes. Electromyographic readings were made during five activities-lying, throwing, lifting a stool, Jogging and stepping up on a stool-chosen as a representative sampling of daily activity that involved gross motor activity of arm, trunk and leg muscles. These activities were used to determine the effect of Structural Integration on the neuromuscular patterning of energy, and results are reported elsewhere (Hunt, Massey, Weinberg, Bruyere, & Hahn, 1977). After the completion of the experimental procedures, Ss were given the second state anxiety questionnaire.

During the intervening 5 weeks Ss in the experimental group there rolled twice a week; each session lasted approximately 1 hour. Control Ss were not rolled, but instead were brought into the laboratory twice a week for 5 weeks and given a series of exercises and movements. Ss were told that these exercises would increase their general physical well-being. This was done to insure that each group received equal attention and thus the results could not be attributed to expectancy effects. After the 5-week period, both experimental and control Ss were brought back individually into the laboratory and administered state anxiety questionnaires and the electromyographic recordings in the same sequence as described above. The only deviation was that no trait anxiety measures were ascertained because this was a relatively stable disposition. To recapitulate, the major dependent variables were the four state anxiety questionnaires, two administered before rolfing, both pro- and post-instrumentation, and two after rolfing, both pre- and post- instrumentation.


To assess state anxiety differences, it gas necessary first to determine whether control and experimental groups differed in trait anxiety, Results of the test indicated no significant differences bet I groups on this parameter. Thus, eve would not expect differential elevations in state anxiety based on the measure of trait anxiety. Between-group differences were analyzed by a multivariate analysis of variance faith three dependent variables using different combinations of the four state anxiety test scores. Variable one was a measure of average state anxiety for each group over the entire experiment. Variable too measured whether there were group differences between pre- and post-instrumentation settings. The third variable served to determine whether there revere group differences in state anxiety from before to after rolfing and thus eras the key variable in testing the hypothesis. To test for the significance of this third variable, average state anxiety before rolfing was used as the covariate, and state anxiety after rolfing was the dependent variable.

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Means for all state anxiety tests are presented in Table 1. Results indicated that the overall multivariate F was significant, F (3, 39) = 3.03, p <.05. Store importantly, univariate tests show that a significant effect divas obtained when differences in state anxiety from before to after rolfing were compared (variable 3), F (1,36) = 7.09, p <.01; Ss who received Structural Integration displayed less anxiety than controls. None of the other variables reached significance. Thus, although the groups did not differ on state anxiety when averaged out throughout experiment or during pre- and post-instrumentation, they did differ from before to after rolfing.

These results provide empirical support for the notion that Structural Integration leads to a decrease in state anxiety. Practitioners of this intervention technique have maintained that chronic muscle tension often carries with it an emotional load. The rolfer must apply sufficient force to stretch and move tissues and thus creates some pain, which disappears after the pressure is removed. However, this temporary pain marks an emotional release that may be colored strongly by associated emotions. While individuals are being rolfed they often recall specific traumatic episodes associated with particular parts of the body. In this fashion, they release pent-up emotions and relinquish chronic muscular contractions. It has been proposed that releasing of emotions and bringing experiences to conscious awareness can result in a decrease in anxiety. The results of the present investigation do indicate that the decrease in state anxiety can be attributed to Structural Integration. However, the exact causal link beta een anxiety reduction and a specific aspect of Structural Integration cannot be determined at this time. Future studies are needed to explore fully the exact nature of the relationship between Structural Integration and its effect on emotional release.


1. PIERCE, R. An introduction to structural integration. Unpublished manuscript, 1970, Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, Boulder, Colorado.


HUNT,V.V.;& GASSY, By. Electromyographic evaluation of structural integration techniques. Psychoenergetic Systems, 1977, 2,1-12.

HUNT, V. V., MASSEY, WEINBERG R. S., BRUYERE, R., & HARE, P. A studs- of structural integration from neuromuscular, energy field, and emotional approaches. Project Report: Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, Boulder, Colorado, 1977.

ROLF, I. Structural Integration, a contribution to the understanding of stress. Confina Psychiatrica, 1973, 16, 69-79.

SPIELBERGER, C. D. Theory and research on anxiety. In C. D. Spielberger (Ed.), Anxiety and behavior. New York; Academic Press, 1966.

SPIELBERGER, C. D., GORSUCH, R. L., & LUSHENE, R. E. Manual for the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Palo Alto, Calif.: Consulting Psychologists Press, 1970.[:de]


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