Rolfing is an alternative medical treatment marketed by the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration (RISI). The Institute states that Rolfing is a "holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organize(s) the whole body in gravity". Rolfing is essentially identical to Structural Integration.
There is no evidence Rolfing is effective for the treatment of any health condition.
Ida Pauline Rolf began working on clients in New York in the 1930s with the premise that the human structure could be organized in relation to gravity. In the 1950s Rolf was teaching her work across the United States, and in the mid-1960s she began teaching at Esalen Institute, where she created a loyal following of students and practitioners. Esalen was the epicenter of the Human Potential Movement, allowing Rolf to exchange ideas with many of their leaders, including Fritz Perls. In 1971 she founded the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration. The school has been based in Boulder, Colorado since 1972.
Rolfing is typically performed in a progression of 10 sessions, sometimes called "the recipe", which is claimed to provide a systematic approach to address goals for the theorized alignment and movement of various body areas. The purpose is to educate the body to have better alignment within gravity. Rolfers manipulate the fascia until they believe it is operating in conjunction with the muscles in a more optimal relationship. In addition to physical manipulation of tissue, Rolfing uses a combination of active and passive movement retraining.
Skeletal muscles often work in opposing pairs called the "agonist" and the "antagonist", the one contracting while the other relaxes. Rolf theorized that "bound up" fasciae (connective tissues) often restrict opposing muscles from functioning in concert. She aimed to separate the fibers of bound up fasciae manually to loosen them and allow effective movement. She claimed to have found an association between emotions and the soft tissue, which is not supported by scientific studies.
Rolfing was often considered painful in the early years, but has become more refined. For adults, there may be moments of intense sensation during a session or mild soreness afterward. The technique can be done gently enough for children and the elderly. Rolf believed that fascia tightens as a protective mechanism, so an aggressive approach can be counter-productive. 
Rolfers and some experts in alternative medicine describe Rolfing as "somatic education" and use terms such as "bodywork" to describe the hands-on portion of the process. Some factions of the massage industry claim that Rolfing is a type of massage. The massage tradition has drawn significantly from Rolfing, with some of Ida Rolf's students leaving to become prominent teachers of massage.
Other disciplines of Structural Integration
In addition to the Rolf Institute, where Certified Rolfers are trained, a number of other schools of Structural Integration certify "Practitioners of the Rolf Method of Structural Integration". Standards are maintained by a professional membership organization, the International Association of Structural Integration. These schools include the Guild for Structural Integration, Hellerwork Structural Integration, Aston Patterning, SOMA. KMI, and over a dozen other Structural Integration schools.
Effectiveness and reception
Rolfing is of no benefit in treating disease or psychological condition.
Skeptics have strongly criticised Rolfing for a lack of scientific support both for its diagnostic methods and its treatment, and have included it in lists of modalities that they consider quackery.
^ abcdSalvo, Susan G. (2012). Massage Therapy: Principles and Practice (4th ed.). Elsevier Saunders. p. 423. ISBN1437719775.
^Stirling, Isabel (2006). Zen Pioneer: The Life & Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki. Shoemaker & Hoard. p. 8. ISBN9781593761103.
^Deutsch, Judith E. (2008). "The Ida Rolf Method of Structural Integration". In Deutsch, Judith E. Complementary Therapies for Physical Therapy: A Clinical Decision-Making Approach. Saunders. pp. 266–7. ISBN0721601111.
^Cordón, Luis. (2005). Popular Psychology: An Encyclopedia. Greenwood Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-313-32457-3 "According to Rolfing theory, memories of traumatic experiences are stored in various parts of the body (as "muscle memory"), blocking the free flow of "vital energy," and the proper sort of massage can release them, thus restoring the proper flow and integrating mind and body... There is no support in psychological literature for the idea of traumatic experiences becoming repressed in the form of muscle memory, and so the basic ideas of Rolfing certainly fall into the category of pseudoscience."