Alternate Title

  • Somatic ontology

Related Terms

  • Bodywork, manipulative therapy, postural release, somatic ontology, Structural Integration.


  • Rolfing® Structural Integration involves deep tissue massage aimed at relieving stress and improving mobility, posture, balance, muscle function and efficiency, energy, and overall well being. Practitioners apply slow-moving pressure with their knuckles, thumbs, fingers, elbows, and knees to the muscles, tissue around the muscles, and other soft tissues. Rolfing® Structural Integration, also called somatic ontology, concentrates on opposing muscle groups, such as the biceps and triceps in the upper arms.
  • The methods used in Rolfing® were developed in the 1950s by Dr. Ida P. Rolf, based on the belief that imbalances in body structure can be corrected by manipulating the soft tissue networks of muscle, fascia, tendons, and ligaments. In 1971, Rolf founded The Rolf Institute of Structure Integration in Boulder, CO, which currently owns rights to the registered mark Rolfing®. However though the term rolfing is also used for various therapies based on the teachings of Rolf.

Evidence Table


    These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.


    Structural Integration may help treat anxiety, although early research is unclear. Further research is needed.

    Cerebral palsy

    Rolfing® Structural Integration may improve movement slightly in cerebral palsy patients. More studies are needed to confirm these possible benefits.

    Chronic fatigue syndrome

    Rolfing® Structural Integration may benefit cardiovascular endurance in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. Patients showed improvement in overall well being. However, larger well-designed studies are needed to confirm these results.

    Chronic lower back pain

    Rolfing® might improve pelvic tilt in healthy patients, suggesting that other low back disorders may benefit from Rolfing®. More studies are needed to show that Rolfing® Structural Integration can effectively treat back pain and other back disorders.

    Musculoskeletal disorders

    Early study suggests that Rolfing® may benefit stress-induced musculoskeletal disorders.

*Key to grades:



    The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.



    Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.


  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration ().



    Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to . Selected references are listed below.

  • Bernau-Eigen M. Rolfing: a somatic approach to the integration of human structures. Nurse Pract Forum 1998;9(4):235-242.
    View Abstract
  • Cottingham JT, Maitland J. A three-paradigm treatment model using soft tissue mobilization and guided movement-awareness techniques for a patient with chronic low back pain: a case study. J Orthoped Sports Phys Ther 1997;26(3):155-167.
    View Abstract
  • Cottingham JT, Porges SW, Lyon T. Effects of soft tissue mobilization (Rolfing pelvic lift) on parasympathetic tone in two age groups. Phys Ther 1988;68(3):352-356.
    View Abstract
  • Cottingham JT, Porges SW, Richmond K. Shifts in pelvic inclination angle and parasympathetic tone produced by Rolfing soft tissue manipulation. Phys Ther 1988;68(9):1364-1370.
    View Abstract
  • Deutsch JE, Derr LL, Judd P, et al. Treatment of chronic pain through the use of structural integration (rolfing). Orthopaedic Phys Ther Clin North America 2000;9(3):411-425.
  • Franco R, Camacho FI, Fernandez-Vazquez A, et al. IgV(H) and bc16 somatic mutation analysis reveals the heterogenicity of cutaneous B-cell lymphoma, and indicates the presence of undisclosed local antigens. Mod Pathol 2004;17(6):623-630.
    View Abstract
  • Goffard JC, Jin L, Mircescu H, et al. Gene expression profile in thyroid of transgenic mice overexpressing the adenosine receptor 2a. Mol Endocrinol 2004;18(1):194-213.
    View Abstract
  • Jones TA. Rolfing. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am 2004;15(4):799-809.
    View Abstract
  • Kerr HD. Ureteral stent displacement associated with deep massage. WMJ 1997;96(12):57-58.
    View Abstract
  • Perry J, Jones MH, Thomas L. Functional evaluation of Rolfing in cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol 1981;23(6):717-729.
    View Abstract
  • Rolf IP. Structural Integration. J Institute Compar Study History Philos Sciences 1963;1(1):3-19.
  • Rolf IP. Structural integration: a contribution to the understanding of stress. Confin Psychiatr 1973;16(2):69-79.
    View Abstract
  • Santoro F, Maiorana C, Geirola R. Neuromascular relaxation and CCMDP. Rolfing and applied kinesiology. Dent Cadmos 1989; 57(17):76-80.
    View Abstract
  • Talty CM, DeMasi I, Deutsch JE. Structural integration applied to patients with chronic fatigue syndrome: a retrospective chart review. J Orthopaedic Sports Phys Ther 1998;27(1):83.
  • Weinberg RS, Hunt VV. Effects of structural integration on state-trait anxiety. J Clin Psychol 1979;35(2):319-322.
    View Abstract