Thursday, June 14, 2012

Rolfing - Part I

One of my bosses recommended that I try Rolfing to fix my ankle tendon and help me get back to running. It sounded kind of weird and new agey, but my desperation won out over my skepticism, so a Rolfing I did go.

So what exactly is Rolfing? I'll let Mr. Internet explain:

My bricks are way out of line. But at least I'm not
wearing a diaper as that person appears to be.
"Rolfing, also called Rolf therapy or structural integration, is a holistic system of bodywork that uses deep manipulation of the body's soft tissue to realign and balance the body's myofascial structure. Rolfing improves posture, relieves chronic pain, and reduces stress. Rolfing helps to improve posture and bring the body's natural structure into proper balance and alignment. This can bring relief from general aches and pains, improve breathing, increase energy, improve self-confidence, and relieve physical and mental stress. Rolfing has also been used to treat such specific physical problems as chronic back, neck, shoulder, and joint pain, and repetitive stress injuries." (from

That sounds great and all, but I'm wondering if it will actually work. I suppose if it doesn't help, at least I'll get some weird stories out of it.

Week 1: I arrive at the Rolfing lady's house (already this seems weird) and, per her instructions on the phone when I made the appointment, go around back to the screened-in porch, which I'm supposed to go through to get to the "waiting room." The door to the waiting room is locked. I knock and no one answers. I sit on the back porch trying not to look like a burglar. After about 10 minutes, a car pulls into the garage. I'm pretty sure I'm at the right address, but I'm still a little worried that whoever gets out of the car is going to be all "Who the hell are you and why are you on my back porch?!" But I am at the right place and the Rolfing lady introduces herself and glances disapprovingly at my flip flops. Apparently they've got to go. She tells me that I need to get shoes with better support and spends the first 20 minutes talking to me about shoes, making me try on her shoes, and giving me a dissertation on ordering shoes from Then I have to strip down to my undergarments and she watches me sit, stand and walk, pointing out all the ways I am doing those things wrong. I feel like I'm in one of those Lifetime movies where sorority sisters draw insults on pledges' bodies in sharpie markers as part of some sort of hazing (I could be making that up, but it sounds like the kind of crap they show on Lifetime). Except I know she's not mean, she's only trying to help me. And everything she says is true. I do have terrible posture. Things she points out that are wrong with me:  my neck is too far forward, my shoulders are hunched, I'm tilted to one side, my arms don't move enough when I walk, my arches are collapsing, and some other stuff I forgot. But suffice it to say I'm a big mess structurally speaking. Evidently this is the price of 30 years of trying to be invisible, of hunching inward because I don't want anyone to look at me. She has me lay down on the massage table and does her Rolfing thing. It does not feel like a massage at all. It's awkward and at times more than a little painful. When she's done she has me sit, stand and walk again and seems pleased to see some improvement. She asks me if I can feel a difference and honestly, I can't, although there aren't any mirrors so I can't see myself and admittedly I have very little body awareness. When I leave, I feel like crying. It seems so hopeless, like I have to undo 30 years of incorrect alignment and relearn how to sit, stand and walk before I can run again.

Week 2: I can't bring myself to throw away my flip flops so I put them in my gym bag, figuring I can still wear them in the shower at least. I buy Birkenstocks and shoes with better arch support. I feel like an 80 year old. But I have to admit the new shoes are comfortable and my ankle doesn't hurt when I walk in them. The Rolfing lady says my movement is improving. But when she's moving my muscles around, she keeps telling me that I'm holding too much, fighting myself and I need to let go. It sounds like something I would do, but I still don't know what she means or how to let go. She says "Let go," then "Good, can you feel the difference?" Sheepishly I admit that I can't. She tells me it may take time. I can see that when I stand up straight, my arches don't collapse as much as they do when I stand in my normal slouchy way. When I catch myself slouching at work, I try to correct it and my back is starting to hurt from all the sitting up straight. My ankle still isn't right. I was hoping to attempt a short run by now, but I can tell it's not ready. Sigh.

Week 3: She tells me not to wear my orthopedic inserts. Something about how it's too big of a transition for my body and it will cause problems elsewhere, plus once she fixes my alignment and builds my arches back up, the inserts won't match my feet anymore. I don't much care about the reasoning. I'll take any excuse not to wear the inserts, since I actively dislike them. We go through the routine again. I stand and she looks at me from the front, back and side. She watches me walk. Evidently my posture is getting better but is still not right. More bodywork on the massage table. It's very uncomfortable. But I know that I need this - even if it doesn't fix my ankle problems - so I don't become a hunchbacked old lady.

She initially told me the typical treatment is 10-15 sessions. I can't see myself going there 7-12 more times, but to give it a fair shot, I'm willing to schedule a few more sessions. I have another appointment in 2 weeks, where she's going to watch me run. That should be interesting.

Lyric of the moment: "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller..." (hopefully)

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