Over the last forty years, I have had Rolfing sessions with many children. I applaud the parents because they have insight and want the best for their kids—after all, kids probably aren’t hearing about Rolfing on the playground and insisting they come in! It is the parents who somehow find their way to Rolfing—either they are already clients of mine and know how effective it is, or they hear about it, believe it makes sense as a treatment option, and bring their children in to work with me.
The variety of issues and length of treatment is very individualized. Until the age of nine, kids can have “spot” work—a couple of sessions to bring balance back after a bad fall, a sprained ankle, an elbow to the head while playing sports, and so on. After that age personality is developed within their bodies, so the full ten sessions of Rolfing are in order. The structural imbalances from years of sitting improperly, sports injuries, accidents causing a broken bone or bones—all these cause problems both while they’re happening and set kids up for problems down the road as well.
Some Simple Sessions Can Save the Day
I once worked on a client’s one-year-old son who was having a hard time walking. He spent much time on his toes and couldn’t find balance. We spent a few minutes lengthening his heels and she called me the very next day to tell me he was walking properly and confidently. He simply needed the input that his heels could extend, and the rest came naturally. In another instance, I worked on a friend’s little boy whose feet were very turned out, so much so that he couldn’t stand. We did a few sessions, redirected his pelvis and all the connective tissue, and poof! He was standing, balancing, and walking within days.
Benefits of the Ten-Session Series
If there is serious structural change needed and the issues are of a chronic nature, the ten sessions are magical for a child. I’ve seen kids mature, shift, and blossom right before my eyes. In addition to the direct hands-on bodywork, the sessions teach us how to live more fully in our bodies after we come out of balance due to an accident, chronic postural issues, or surgery. As I see it, the magic of Rolfing is to get back to neutral and allow the body to flow and move more easily. Kids quickly benefit from the lengthening and organization of the soft tissue because it feels right and, better yet, it feels good!
Over time, all the fascial adhesions of soft tissue injuries accumulate and begin to restrict the way the muscles move. This translates to stiffness, lack of range of motion, poor balance, and the inability to feel flexible or be able to stretch and feel lift. Left unchecked, this can cause a child to develop harmful patterns of movement that can last a lifetime, potentially leading to stressful holding patterns, unhealthy habits, and perhaps even chronic pain.
The Truth Behind the Magic of Rolfing
The process of Rolfing is done by direct manipulation to the connective tissue or soft tissue—everything but the bone. If Billy had badly twisted an ankle playing soccer, we are grateful that at least nothing was broken. If there isn’t blood or a major break, we tend to think nothing is so bad that a few days off that ankle won’t fix. In reality, however, if Billy turned his ankle with enough force to fall and limp around, chances are there is an imbalance brewing. Left untreated, this ankle twist can cause the knee above to compensate and over time perhaps even cause the whole pelvis to shift to further accommodate the imbalance of the injury.
In my practice, I have had countless clients reporting that an injury from childhood was the onset of an issue that twenty or thirty years later they are now trying to fix, presenting either as intermittent pain or chronic flare-ups. Kids are lucky—they can be treated right away and have less time to collect all the scar tissue and abuse that we as adults endure.
Using Rolfing to Aid More Serious Conditions
Many children come in with scoliosis, a side-to-side twisting of the spinal column. In severe cases, a pediatrician might prescribe a brace, which is worn eighteen or more hours a day to try to control the shifting body. Rolfing addresses this issue from the standpoint that bones don’t move themselves; rather, it is the soft tissue—muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia (the tissue that weaves the body together) that moves the bones. Bone is living tissue that changes more slowly than the soft tissue, which can have immediate results—if the soft tissue matrix is balanced, the body stops being pulled out of alignment. The entire body is involved in this imbalance, not just the back muscles and associated soft tissue. The psoas, a structurally important inner abdominal muscle, often holds the key to success in regaining balance.
Years ago, a client brought in her son—a shy, tall (yet slouchy), slender, thirteen-year-old boy who had been diagnosed with scoliosis. He was seen at the local children’s hospital and prescribed a brace as treatment. His mom knew our Rolfing work addressed whole-body balance and wanted that for her son. He responded very well to the sessions, which complemented and gave more direction to the bracing. A few years later I saw him again, this time for advanced Rolfing (a five-session series that goes to a deeper level), which took his treatment to the next level and really straightened him out. He had become a tall, slender, more confident young man with only slight imbalances that were hardly noticeable.
It is important to really look at your kids, watch for chronic shifting onto one leg or obvious asymmetries, listen to their complaints, and address injuries with a concerned eye. Intervention at a young age can alleviate more significant issues later. Keep an open mind and know that there is help beyond the usual treatment.
Sharon Sklar is in her 41st year of private practice as a Certified Advanced Rolfer. State licensed and the only Rolfer in Central CT, Sharon works with direct manipulation of the soft tissue of the body and movement re-education over a ten-session series to help her clients feel freer, get more balanced, and reduce chronic pain. Great for athletes, children, and adults recovering from the stress, injuries, or traumas of life. Inquiries are encouraged! Call 860.561.4337 for more info or to schedule a consultation.