Many people come to Rolfing to get help with a specific condition that is causing pain or limited mobility. Some of the conditions people seek relief for are chronic, low-level aches and stiffness, low back pain, shoulder pain, carpal tunnel, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, TMJ issues, migraine/headaches, knee and ankle pain, shin splints, tennis elbow, and osteoarthritis.
Pain relief is not a primary goal of Rolfing. Rolfing is not "fix-it" work and doesn't aim to cure or fix a specific physical structure. It can't magically erase the wear on a bulging disk in your spine or a bone spur. However there are some important ways it can help:
Releasing fascial tension and balancing the body's alignment takes pressure off of tissues that have pathology. Even a small reduction in stress on a weak joint or agitated nerve can have a large impact and support healing - and in some cases resolve the issue.
Pain is complicated. Researchers actually don't understand very well what causes pain - the state of physical tissues is part of it, but beliefs, emotions and the overall level of inflammation in our bodies all play a big role. What is clear is that pain is often not caused by physical damage in the tissues, especially in the terms of chronic pain. Many people have worn or bulging disks (i.e. "degenerative disk disease" or "herniated disk") but no pain. Other people have no observable damage to physical tissues but a lot of pain! "The issue is not only in the tissues." In many cases, the body "protects" an area that has been injured long after the injury is healed. Balancing alignment or even simply the process of listening to the body and increased awareness can help restore function and reduce pain.
As you increase your awareness of the body you are better able to understand and manage pain signals. As you become more aware of your body, you can understand better what is increasing pain and what is easing it. You have tools to help you evaluate This gives you ways to manage pain, or even sense it coming and "cut it off at the pass" before it reaches a critical level. Sessions include management practices and exercise you can do on your own to help manage pain symptoms.
Rolfers and other SI practitioners tend to get enthusiastic about this work because we see great results so often, However, Rolfing (or any one method) is not a cure-all. The issue may be better but not be completely resolved. Some pain is resistant to any treatment, but you might still get other benefits from Rolfing. You will get more out of your Rolfing work if you treat it as an exploration of your body and tune in to what you are feeling throughout your body rather than focusing on "fixing" one particular ache or pain.
Some people with pain need medical intervention. Sometimes pain indicates a serious or life-threatening issue. Please get appropriate medical assessment for a pain condition. If you have sudden or acute pain, other symptoms in addition to pain, or have had a recent injury you should check with a medical professional to rule out potential medical conditions.
Rolfing works better for some types of pain than others. If you have some pain issue please discuss it and I can offer more specific feedback on whether Rolfing, visceral/neural work, therapeutic Thai bodywork, or Egoscue therapy may help. People with systemic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis often report relief and improved function with Rolfing and other manual and movement therapies, but more on a maintenance basis (it does not "cure' the underlying condition, but may help manage it).