The difference between Massage, Chiropractic and Rolfing®

So, just what is the difference between deep-tissue Massage, Chiropractic and Rolfing®?

Massage, Rolfing and Chiropractic hold many similarities: they may all lead to reduced pain, relaxation and a sense of ease in the body, and they are all applied in similar fashions - through hands-on, direct touch. However, there are some key differences.

Rolfing and Massage:

Rolfing and massage differ most significantly in one key way: massage is great for short-term relaxation or relief of pain, while Rolfing changes the structure of the body to provide long-lasting ease and relief. 

Let's look at an example:

Say you have sore shoulders, a very common problem in today's computer-oriented world. You decide to go for a massage to release some of the tension, and the massage therapist spends 30 minutes just working on your shoulders. You walk out feeling great, but then notice the very next day how the tension is starting to creep back in. 

Here's why Rolfing is different: Instead of just working on the problem area, we work on the what's causing the tension to be there in the first place. In many cases, tension in the shoulders is not really caused by the shoulders themselves. It may actually be caused by tension elsewhere in the body. In this example, let's say that due to your job, you spend a lot of time leaning forward to look at a computer. The body is smart in a way: it knows that since you're going to spend most of your time in that forward-leaning position, it should reinforce those muscles that draw you forward to make it easier to do so. What it doesn't factor in is the fact that now, the muscles on the back of your body, and especially your shoulders, will have to do extra work to compensate this forward pull. Therefore, those muscles get tired more quickly, creating the feeling of tension and soreness. So instead of just working the shoulders, we work the entire body to ease the tension patterns that cause the soreness in the first place. Therefore, you walk out of the office feeling great, and the tension doesn't come back.


Rolfing and Chiropractic:

Rolfing and Chiropractic are a bit more different. These days, there are many types of chiropractic work, but the overall idea is to work with the spine and other bony structures to release and treat mechanical restrictions, which directly or indirectly influences the function of the nervous system and therefore overall health. This is more similar to Rolfing in the sense that it changes the structure of the body to improve overall health. The main difference between the two is the way in which it is implemented. While Chiropractic works more directly on the vertebrae of the spine, in Rolfing we work on the connective tissue (called the fascia) which surrounds all of your muscles, organs and joints, and creates the overall structure in your body. This changes the alignment of the bones and the function of the nervous system to improve overall health.

Chiropractic and Rolfing often go quite well together to promote longer-lasting changes in the body. (Of course, as a general disclaimer here, if you are getting Rolfing and Chiropractic done at the same time, be sure to inform both practitioners.) Rolfing can help the Chiropractic adjustments stay by releasing the tension patterns which pulled the bones or vertebrae out of alignment in the first place.


Overall, massage, Chiropractic and Rolfing all have great benefits. It really just depends on what you're looking for. If you're looking for temporary relaxation, go for massage. If you're looking for adjustments to the spine, go for Chiropractic. If you're looking to create long-term change in your structure, go for Rolfing.