The European Rolfing® Association (ERA) is supporting scientific research about the effects, effectiveness and therapeutic mechanisms of the Rolfing® method:
in the physiological and medical domains,
in the field of health promotion,
in the psychological and social domains,
in the fields of anthropology and philosophy.
In the physiological and medical realms many of the clinically experienced data of Rolfers® are supported by the actual results of the worldwide Fascia Research. The European Rolfing Association (ERA) was an instrumental supporter of the First International Fascia Research Congress at the Harvard Medical School in Boston 2007. This Fascia Congress was positively noticed internationally, you will even find a detailed report in the respected scientific magazine “Science”. The subsequent fascia congresses (2009, 2012, 2015) were also supported by the ERA, as has been the most recent Fascia Research Congress in Berlin 2018 and of course also will be the upcoming next (6th) congress in Montreal 2022.
Dr. biol.hum. Robert Schleip, the Research Director of ERA, was awarded with the Vladimir-Janda-Award 2006. This award was presented by the German Society for Manual Medicine (Deutschen Gesellschaft für Manuelle Medizin), the Society of Manual Medicine Physicians (Ärztegesellschaft für Manuelle Medizin), and Physiobörse Anatomie & Physiologie (Wittlich) to Dr. Werner Klingler and Dr. Schleip for their research work related to fascia.
A Scientific Advisory Board of renowned researchers advises our organisation as well; further details can be found below.
Dr. biol.hum. Robert Schleip, Research Director of the ERA www.fasciaresearch.de
- Rolfing® SI Research
Scientific literature in support of the Rolfing method:
Empirical values show that Rolfing can effectively change body structure, posture and movement of clients, with lasting effects. Psychological effects of Rolfing are often described, too. Since the seventies, researchers have published scientific results about several effects of Rolfing. Some studies are listed below (non-exhaustive).
The growing field of Fascia Research provides additional scientific references, important for the Rolfing method. Related Research lists studies of potential interest for Rolfers and the Rolfing method.
The European Rolfing® Association is looking for partners in Science and Research in order to conduct or support further studies about the effectiveness of Rolfing.
1. Physiological Studies
A recent investigation demonstrates that the basic 10 sessions of Rolfing Structural Integration, when applied by a physical therapist with advanced certification, is capable of significantly decreasing pain and increasing active range of motion in adult subjects, male and female, with complaints of cervical spine dysfunction, regardless of age .
Previous physiological studies demonstrated that already a single Rolfing session significantly decreases standing pelvic tilt angle and significantly increases vagal tone [2,3]. The results provide theoretical support for the reported clinical uses of soft tissue pelvic manipulation for certain types of low back dysfunction  and musculoskeletal disorders associated with autonomic stress.
Early electromyographic evaluations already pointed to improved organization and greater balance in the neuromuscular system following the intervention with Rolfing . More recent studies confirmed an improvement in balance with Structural Integration (Rolfing) in persons with myofascial pain .
Several case studies evaluated the effect of Rolfing in persons with specific diagnoses [7-11].
James H et al. Rolfing structural integration treatment of cervical spine dysfunction. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. Article in press, accepted 1 July 2008.
- Cottingham J. Shifts in pelvic inclination angle and parasympathetic tone produced by Rolfing soft tissue manipulation. Physical Therapy, 68:1364-1370, 1988
- Cottingham J, Porges SW, Lyon T. Effects of soft tissue mobilization (Rolfing pelvic lift) on parasympathetic tone in two age groups. Physical Therapy, 68:352-356, 1988
- Cottingham JT. Effects of soft tissue mobilization on pelvic inclination angle, lumbar lordosis, and parasympathetic tone: Implications for treatment of disabilities associated with lumbar degenerative joint disease. – Public testimony presentation to the National Center of Medical Rehabilitation Research of the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, MD; March 19, 1992. Rolf Lines 20(2):42-45, 1992
- Hunt V, Massey W. Electromyographic evaluation of Structural Integration techniques. Psychoenergetic Systems 2:199-210, 1977
- Findley TW et al. Improvement in balance with Structural Integration (Rolfing): A controlled case series in persons with myofascial pain. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 85(9):e34, 2004
- Deutsch JE, Derr L, Judd P, DeMasi I, Reuven B. Outcomes of Structural Integration applied to patients with different diagnosis: A retrospective review.Proceedings of the XIV International World Congress of Physical Therapy, Barcelona, 2003
- Deutsch JE, Derr LL, Judd P, et al. Treatment of chronic pain through the use of Structural Integration (Rolfing). Orthopaedic Physical Therapy Clinics of North America 9(3):411-425, 2000
- Talty CM, DeMasi I, Deutsch JE. Structural Integration applied to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a retrospective chart review. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 27(1):83, 1998
- Deutsch JE, Judd P, DeMassi I.. Structural Integration applied to patients with a primary neurologic diagnosis: two case studies. Neurology Report 21(5):161-162, 1997
- Perry J, Jones MH, Thomas L. Functional evaluation of Rolfing in cerebral palsy. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 23(6):717-729, 1981
2. Psychological Studies
A controlled clinical study indicated that Rolfing caused a lasting decrease in state anxiety when compared to the control group. Results were discussed in terms of the release of emotional tension stored up in the muscles due to Structural Integration . In a psychophysiological study, changes after Rolfing structural integration were indicative of increased openness and better modulated sensitivity to environmental stimulation .
- Weinberg RS, Hunt VV. Effects of structural integration on state-trait anxiety. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 35(2), 1979
- Silverman J et al. Stress, stimulus intensity control, an the structural integration technique. Confinia Psychiatrica 16(3):201-19, 1973
- Hunt VV, Massey W, Weinberg R, Bruyere R, Hahn PM. A study of Structural Integration from neuromuscular, energy field & emotional approaches. Research Report submitted to Rolf Institute, UCLA Dept. of Kinesiology, 1977.Article (somatics.de)
- Pratt TC. Psychological effects of Structural Integration. Psychological Reports, 35(2):856, 1974
- Fascia Research
Fascia / Connective Tissue – new Focal Point of Research
The fascial network of the human body is the structure that Rolfers work with. The recent research in fascia is therefore of great relevance for the Rolfing method. Since the First International Fascia Congress, the term “fascia” is interpretated broadly as the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body. The definition of fascia extends to all fibrous connective tissues within the body.
1. Fascia and Back Pain
Recent studies demonstrated: Many muscle pains are due to, or at least reinforced by, fascial irritations.
Lumbar fascia as an example, previously almost unregarded in back pain research: The lumbar fascia is densely innervated by potential pain receptors. During inflammatory processes in the lower back area, the sensitivity is considerably enhanced . Histological studies suggest that micro injuries within the lumbar fascia are a frequent cause for back pain . These and similar studies could “disburden” the intervertebral discs as a cause for back pain in several cases .
- Tesarz J, Tachuchi T, Mense S. Die Fascia thoracolumbalis als potentielle Ursache für Rückenschmerzen. Manuelle Medizin 2008; 46: 259
- Schleip R et al. Letter to the Editor concerning “A hypothesis of chronic back pain: ligament subfailure injuries lead to muscle control dysfunction” (M. Panjabi). European Spine Journal 2007; 16: 1733-1735
- Interview mit Schleip R. Rückenschmerzen, Faszien und Rolfing. BR2, Wissensredaktion. ARD Mediathek.
2. Fascia as a Sense Organ
Plasticity of fascia is not adequately explained by mechanical concepts only (like thixotrhophy or piezoelectricity) [3,4]. Fascia are highly innervated by innumerous mechano receptors [1,2].
- Schleip R. Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation: Part 1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 7(1):11-19, 2003. Abstract (somatics.de) // Download
- Schleip R. Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation: Part 2. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 7(2):104-116, 2003. Abstract (somatics.de) // Download
- Dölken M. Was muss ein Manualtherapeut über die Physiologie des Bindegewebes und die Entwicklung einer Bewegungseinschränkung wissen? Manuelle Medizin 2002; 40: 169-176
- Threlkeld AJ. The effects of manual therapy on connective tissue. Physical Therapy 1992; 72: 893-902 (fasciaresearch.com)
3. Fascia in Movement
A considerable amount of force transmission in movement is done by intra- and extramuscular fascia . Model calculations showed a significant role of the lumbar fascia in stabilizing the back in human gait [2,3].
- Huijing PA. Muscular force transmission necessitates a multilevel integrative approach to the analysis of function of skeletal muscle. Exerc Sport Sci Rev 2003; 31: 167-175
- Barker PJ et al. Effects of tensioning the lumbar fascia on segmental stiffness during flexion and extension. Spine 2006; 31: 397-405
- Zorn A et al. The spring-like function of the lumbar fascia in human walking. In: Findley TW, Schleip R, Hrsg. Fascia research – basic science and implications for vonventional and complementary health care. München: Elsevier; 2007: 188 Swingwalker (Fascia Congress 2007).
- Schleip R, Naylor IL, Ursu D, Melzer W, Zorn A, Wilke HJ, Lehmann-Horn F, Klingler W. Passive muscle stiffness may be influenced by active contractility of intramuscular connective tissue. Medical Hypotheses 66(1):66-71, 2006.
- Schleip R, Klingler W, Lehmann-Horn F. Active fascial contractility: Fascia may be able to contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and thereby influence musculoskeletal dynamics. Medical Hypotheses 65(2):273-277, 2005.
4. Fascia and Manual Intervention
- Chaudhry HR, Schleip R, Ji Z, Bukiet B, Maney M, Findley TW. Three-dimensional mathematical model for deformation of human fasciae in manual therapy. Journal of American Osteopathic Association, 2008. 108(8):379-390
- Chaudhry H, Huang C, Schleip R, Ji Z, Bukiet B, Findley T. Viscoelastic behavior of human fasciae under extension in manual therapy. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11(2), Apr 2007.
- Heymann Wv, Böhni U, Locher H. Grundlagenforschung trifft Manualmedizin. Manuelle Medizin 2005; 43: 385-39
- Threlkeld AJ. The effects of manual therapy on connective tissue. Physical Therapy 1992.
5. Fascia Research Society create the world’s first 3-D human fascia plastinate
The field of fascia research has undergone remarkable expansion and growth in the last decade, which is shaping the progression of many related fields. In order to further support fascia anatomy education, the imaging of fascia has also been expanding, but until now a true visualisation has been a challenge.
Based on this, the teams behind the BODY WORLDS Exhibitions and the Fascia Research Society joined forces to create an interdisciplinary team with the lofty goal to produce a full body plastinate, revealing the entire human fascial net, three-dimensionally.
The result of this ambitious three-year project is the successful creation of the world’s first 3-D human fascia plastinate titled FR:EIA (Fascia Revealed: Educating Interconnected Anatomy). FR:EIA will become the new attraction and an integral part of the permanent collection at the BODY WORLDS Museum in Berlin.
If you would like to read more information about the science behind Rolfing, please visit the Rolfing Research Foundation.
Scientific Advisory Board of the ERA
The Research Committee of the European Rolfing® Association e.V. is supported and assisted by a scientific advisory board of renowned researchers.
Advisory Board Members
- Emeritus Prof. Serge Gracovetsky, PhD - Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. His research about spine biomechanics and the so-called Spinal Engine is well known. Find articles by Gracovetsky in PubMed.
- Niko Kohls, PhD - Psychologist. Research focus on relationship between spirituality and health. Head of the research area “Psychophysiology of Consciousness: Spirituality, Mindfulness, Quality of Life and Health” of the Generation Research Program GRP of the Ludwig-Maximilians-University LMU Munich.
- Gertrud H.-Meitzner, PhD - PhD in Psychology. Details see above: Research Committee of the ERA, Research Coordination.
- PD Dr. med. Dominik Irnich - Medical research at the University of Munich. Focus on pain therapy, evidence based studies on acupuncture, myofascial trigger points. Find articles by Irnich in PubMed.
- Prof. M. Solomonow, PhD,MD (hon) - Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Director of Bioengineering Division & Musculoskeletal Disorders Research Laboratory, University of Colorado, Denver, Health Sciences Center. Find articles by Solomonow in PubMed.
- Andry Vleeming, PhD - Clinical anatomist and founder of the Spine and Joint Rehabilitation Centre, Rotterdam. Vleeming has worked with a team of experts on the new European Guidelines on Pelvic Girdle pain. He is organizer of the tri-annual World Congress on Low Back & Pelvic Pain www.worldcongresslbp.com. Find articles by Vleeming in PubMed.
- Prof. Harald Walach, PhD - Fesearch professor in psychology, University of Northampton UK, School of Social Sciences, as well as coordinator of the European office of the Samueli Institute. Research on the evaluation of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as well as on the methodology of evaluation of CAM. President of the International Society for Complementary Medical Research.