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How Is Rolfing Different From Massage?

What is Rolfing?

According to the Rolf Institute for Structural Integration, rolfing structural integration is a type of bodywork that reorganizes the connective tissues, called fascia, which permeate the whole body.

Rolf Institute of Structural Integration notes that this technique’s founder, Dr. Ida Rolf, recognized that the body is essentially a system of interconnected tissue networks, rather than a series of separate parts. We cover, help and penetrate all muscles, bones, nerves and organs. Rolfing Structural Integration works to detach, realign and stabilize the entire body on this web-like network of connective tissues, thus theoretically mitigating stress, minimizing compensation and alleviating pain.


Usually, deep tissue massages include digging deep inside the muscle to unlock trigger points and improve mobility. It doesn’t consider the whole body, however, rather it focuses only on one location.

A deep tissue massage varies from Rolfing because for each particular muscle strain it relies on techniques. It is only a temporary relief and does not fix or remove system-wide trends of punishment that may be triggered by certain activities. Deep tissue massage is perfect for temporarily relieving muscle tightness.

Rolfing vs. Massage: What’s the Difference?

At this stage, we saw what Rolfing is, the context behind it, the idea behind it, and what looks like a typical Rolfing session. So how would the variations between Rolfing and massage be summarized?

Rolfing at its heart is systemic integration. When someone performs the Rolfing techniques they also operate to achieve structural integration within the body. This holistic image can vary from the approach taken during a bodywork session when the massage therapist focuses on a specific part of the body without realizing how it could influence the whole body’s “structural integration.”

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    Massage therapy is of course also therapeutic in another sense. Before deciding on a course of treatment, a traditional massage therapist should consider the musculature of the whole body. Nevertheless, massage focuses on relieving stress and offering relief for the client, not on trying to integrate the body’s function together according to a common idea of how the body should operate.

    Rolfing requires intense stimulation of the tissue, and in this context, it may look very much like massage. But, unlike deep tissue massage, Rolfing not only operates on the deep tissue level. A Rolfing practitioner may apply differing pressure levels based on the technique they are using, with different pressure rates being used to target different layers of the body.

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