Rolfing/Structural Integration for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a painful condition caused by pressure on the median nerve in the wrist. It develops from a repetitive stress injury (RSI) to the hand, wrist, or arm. If left untreated, the condition may require surgery to correct. Rolfing is a holistic system of bodywork that helps release the body's connective tissue, alleviating pain and returning normal function.
When used in individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome, Rolfing helps to relieve pain by reducing pressure on the nerve. Structural integration helps realign the body so that the abnormal movements aggravating carpal tunnel syndrome are reduced. In this way, Rolfing Structural Integration can provide permanent reduction of pain and prevent damage to the nerve of the wrist. Rolfing is most effective when initiated at the first signs of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
How Does Rolfing Structural Integration Work?
Rolfing is a system of bodywork developed by American Ida Rolf, Ph. D., who lived from 1896 to 1979. Rolfing uses pressure and energy to loosen the fascia, or connective tissue, of the body. The fascia is thin, strong tissue that separates muscles, covers bones, and surrounds internal organs such as the heart, lungs, and intestines. It provides a seamless, interconnected network that supports body structures. Healthy fascia is flexible. Repetitive movement, poor posture, or injury put abnormal stresses on the fascia and cause it to shorten and lose its elasticity. The goal of Rolfing is to use pressure to loosen and restore the fascia and then reshape, or structurally integrate, the body so that it is aligned in a natural way that eliminates abnormal stress during movement.
How Does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) Develop?
The carpal tunnel is an anatomical feature located at the base of the palm. The bones and ligaments of the hand and wrist form a tunnel, or constriction, through which the median nerve and several tendons pass. Computer keyboarders, assembly line workers who manipulate small objects, instrumental musicians, some athletes, and other people who use their hands repetitively put abnormal stress on this area by repeating specific movements. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can also be generated by injury or arthritis, causing the area to become internally swollen and inflamed. As inflammation narrows the tunnel and puts pressure on the nerve, pain develops, and if not corrected, permanent numbness in the first three fingers will result. About ten percent of people will experience carpal tunnel syndrome during their lifetime.
How Does Rolfing Structural Integration Help Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Rolfing structural integration helps treat carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) in two ways. First, Rolfing lengthens and releases the fascia and helps to restore its flexibility. Second, once the fascia is released, the entire body is integrated in a way that returns it to its natural posture. This results in freer, less stressful movement and helps to reduce abnormal actions that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Although special attention may be paid to the shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand of clients who have carpal tunnel pain, the professional Rolfer will work on all parts of the body. This is because the fascia throughout the entire body is connected, and the body cannot be successfully integrated by concentrating only on a single area.
What Happens During a Rolfing Structural Integration Session?
Rolfing Structural Integration therapy consists of ten consecutive structured sessions lasting about an hour each and spaced a week apart. Individuals lie on a massage table. Men wear swimming trunks and women wear a two-piece bathing suit or similar clothing. Although Rolfing works with deep tissue, it is rarely painful, and any pain experienced should be transient.
The first three Rolfing sessions are called the sleeve sessions. During first session, the client completes a health questionnaire. This is followed by an evaluation of the client's posture and body imbalances and a discussion of specific therapy goals. During the early sessions, the Rolfing professional works mainly on the superficial layers of the body. The client may be asked to breathe in specific ways or make certain movements.
Sessions four through seven are called the core sessions. These sessions involve deep tissue work. Each session focuses on a specific part of the body, beginning at the feet in session four and reaching the head and neck by session seven.
Sessions eight through ten emphasize integration. During these sessions, the Rolfer may work on the specific area most likely to be causing the carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) symptoms with the goal of making movements smoother and more natural. The final session concentrates on complete integration and balancing of the body.
Following this ten-sessions regimen, the client should wait for about six months before undergoing any more Rolfing work. This allows the client to consolidate gains made through the just-completed structural integration work.
Finding a Rolfing Structural Integration Professional
When seeking Rolfing Structural Integration therapy, it is most important to work with a certified practitioner. Certification in Rolfing Structural Integration is available at both the beginning and advanced levels. The basic program at the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration involves a minimum of 600 hours of training. Training and continuing education classes are also available at the Guild for Structural Integration in Boulder, Colorado, founded by Ida Rolf.
The Guild for Structural Integration offers client education material on how Rolfing Structural Integration works to balance the body.
The Rolf Institute of Structural Integration provides information on the benefits of Rolfing for Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI), research on Rolfing, and additional information on training become a certified Rolfer.