Rolfing: Pain-Free Living

In 2007 I was diagnosed with De Quervain syndrome. Similar to carpal tunnel, De Quervain syndrome is an inflammation of the tendons involving the thumb and the wrist. The pain is intense.

After conventional therapies offered no relief, I was fortunate to discover a solution completely by accident: a treatment called Rolfing. I have since become something of an evangelist. This is the first in a series of articles about what I have learned about Rolfing from a local expert.

At first, nothing was effective in addressing my case of De Quervain syndrome. Under the direction of a hand surgeon, treatment began with a wrist brace, to no avail. From there, I was given a single cortisone shot. The hand surgeon explained that cortisone had a 50 percent chance of being successful, and that if it didn't work, the pain would return in a few months. At that point I could have only one more shot of cortisone in that area.

The likelihood of the second cortisone shot being successful was significantly less than the first. I was told that, if it failed, I was most likely looking at surgery, which only had a 50 percent chance of success. It involved cutting the tendons in my hand, with a minimum six-week recovery period.

The first shot did not work. The second shot did not work. The pain was intense and now radiated up to my elbow. I resigned myself to the idea of surgery, despite its relatively low probability of success and the prospect of a long, painful recovery.

Then I got lucky.

I have to confess that my good fortune came from eavesdropping on a conversation at a yoga studio. A woman was talking about how Rolfing – something I had never heard of – solved her chronic hip pain. I wanted to find out more. Within a week I found myself at a Rolfer in Greenwich, with no idea what to expect.

The Rolfer quickly determined that the pain was actually emanating from my shoulder. After completing seven sessions, I was pain-free. I have remained so since 2007, without further treatment.

So now I talk about Rolfing to anyone who will listen (and probably a few who may prefer not to). It is not the ideal solution for every ailment, but it is perfect for many.

This year, I decided to team up with a local Rolfer to help inform and educate about this amazing practice and its benefits. This article is the first in a series I will be writing on the topic for Weston Today. I will tell you about Rolfing, what it is, what it isn't, how and why it works, and how I am fortunate again to find it a solution to an intermittent sciatica issue.

What is Rolfing?

Rofling is not massage, it is not chiropractic. Here is how Mikel Bensend, owner of Westport Rolfing, explains the difference:

"Massage works with muscles and is intended to stretch, create relaxation, increase circulation pre and post sports, and the like. Physical therapy is about strengthening after things like physical trauma, injury, and surgery. A good physical therapist will work with proprioception and balance. They will also do some soft tissue manipulation. Chiropractic is concerned with spinal alignment and uses different theories of adjustment to accomplish goals."

"Rolfers are accessing the fascia via the nervous system and movement. We’re looking to create tensional balance throughout the body and help the client relate to and through gravity. Gravity is a constant stressor. Compensating for its pull creates compromised postural patterns. When we can find that balance of tension and proprioception, we end up working far less to maintain effective posture and efficient movement."

Mr. Bensend added that, "Typically, Rolfing takes place over ten 60 to 75-minute sessions. Chronic pain issues are addressed both directly and indirectly. The 10 sessions work through the entire body."

In my next article, I will describe my first three sessions, what happened, and their effect on me.

Mikel Bensend and Sachi Nakayama are Certified Advanced Rolfers at Westport Rolfing, 1071 Post Road East, Suite 207, Westport.

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