Rolfing for sciatica is a form of modified deep tissue massage used to treat the fascia and musculoskeletal structure of the body. Rolfing remains a controversial treatment option, despite having been in existence for many decades already.
Rolfing claims that it is a curative approach for many forms of pain, but there is little or no clinical evidence supporting its use in the traditional medical system. It does remain a popular form of complementary medicine worldwide. In my experience, Rolfing is best utilized as symptomatic treatment, since the sessions can reduce the severity of sciatica expressions in some sufferers. However, I have not seen any lasting cures provided, although I would love to hear any positive experiences enjoyed by fellow patients.
This dialog examines Rolfing as a dedicated sciatica therapy.
Rolfing is a system of deep tissue massage and anatomical alignment using a vertical line as the model for the human form. All Rolfing techniques are designed to help a person attain better posture and movement by eliminating binding soft tissue concerns, such as muscular and fascial tissue limitations.
Rolfing was invented and organized in the 1950s by Ida Pauline Rolf, a biochemist who was injured herself and sought to create a system by which patients with chronic pain conditions could find relief. Earlier names for Rolfing include Postural Release and Structural Integration of the Human Body.
Rolfing distinguishes itself from other forms of massage and anatomical balancing, but is actually strikingly similar in many regards. In fact, the main distinctions I have seen are far more ideological than practical, since the hands-on methods of care mirror those in many other styles of complementary medicine, including general massage, Alexander Technique and trigger point therapy.
Rolfing speculates that most pain problems stem from the fact that the anatomy is not working well with gravity. This is due to poor posture and soft tissue constrictions which prevent proper muscular movement. The original culprit for most soft tissue bindings was theorized to be the fascia. However, many modern Rolfing practitioners now feel the primary problematic issue to be extremely tense muscles themselves, in certain cases.
Rolfing claims to be very different than general massage, but looks identical to any form of deep tissue massage I have seen. The philosophy of treatment basically asks patients to commit to 10 sessions, typically at a cost of around $1000. The thought being that either the patient will improve after the initial 10 treatments or not.
While some see this as a good way to guarantee money coming in for caregivers, I actually applaud the system for limiting itself to 10 sessions traditionally and using follow-up work, as needed, for successful cases. This is refreshing compared to some lifelong therapies which are obviously set up as pure money making machines. However, $1000 out of pocket can still be a terrible financial burden to bear, especially if the therapy does not render immediate and significant benefits.
I have used Rolfing for some soft tissue injuries and found it to be uncomfortable and unhelpful. The constant digging seemed to aggravate the condition far more than relieve it. I admit that the skills and techniques used by each practitioner might influence the outcome of treatment greatly, but I still do not see a big difference in care provided when compared to many other manipulation therapies.
If you feel that you have underlying soft tissue issues causing your sciatica, then you may consider Rolfing as a treatment option. The system will definitely not cure verified pain due to a spinal causation, but then again, these issues are often misdiagnosed and are sometimes nothing more than soft tissue concerns enacted by an ischemia process anyway. If you do try Rolfing and have good results, please let me know about your experience.