(I posted this on another forum that had a mention of Rolfing structural release work, and I thought I should re-post it here. Don't worry, I'm not selling anything...)
I'd like to offer some information on a couple of other types of bodywork that are very beneficial for scoliosis: Myofascial Release Therapy (www.myofascialrelease.com) and Craniosacral therapy (www.upledger.com). I am a therapist who practices both modalities, though I am not affiliated with the above-mentioned websites. (Except that I've had my training through them.)
I'm very familiar with Rolfing, as I have completed the 10-session protocol and them some. I really like the work and I can see where it would be very beneficial to scoliosis. The idea behind Rolfing is that it uses a very deep pressure to stretch the connective tissue and break adhesions in the connective tissue. Connective tissue, when tight, is capable of exerting a tremendous amount of pull on its attachments, more than enough to pull joints into subluxation and to create changes in bone over the years.
Myofascial Release Therapy also concentrates on releasing tight and adhered connective tissue, but instead of forcing it with deep pressure, it uses a very gentle stretch over time to basically melt away the tightness. This is an oversimplified explanation, but as a therapist, it actually feels as though the feeling of tightness and immobility melts away under my hands.
Fascia (connective tissue) is an elasto-collagenous complex. That means that it's a combination of elastin (stretchy coiled) fibers and collagen (dense, tough) fibers suspended in a matrix or ground substance. Many different things, from trauma to habitual bad posture or body usage, to congenital problems, to inflammation and even emotional issues can cause fascia to tighten or become adhered. Over time, especially as the body grows, it is very capable of pulling the spine into a lateral or roto-scoliosis, hyperkyphosis or hyperlordosis, or any combination.
The MFR therapist will begin with a postural analysis. The technique itself is a gentle stretching. Though there's not a lot of pressure, the focus of the stretch is deep within the fascia. The therapist uses only enough pressure to "engage the barrier:" that is, the level of stretch where the tissue ceases to feel fluid and elastic and becomes stiff. The stretch is then held at precisely that level until release occurs. That can take anywhere from 90 seconds to over 10 minutes. The therapist will follow the transient motion and mini-releases of the tissue during that time in order to maintain the precise pressure needed. Then, as I said before, it just suddenly feels like things have melted underhand.
Craniosacral Therapy uses basically the same understanding of fascia and the same technique, but focuses on the craniosacral system: that is, the semi-closed hydraulic system defined by the meningeal linings of the brain and spinal cord and the cerebrospinal fluid within. Generally, pressures in this therapy are much lighter than even MFR, measured in grams. The bones of the head, face, and spine are used as handles to gentle traction, compress, decompress, unwind, soften, and lengthen the meninges. The meninges are fascia, and when tight, they can also exert tremendous pulling and twisting forces on the spine, from the inside.
When seeing scoliosis patients, I generally perform a mixture of MFR and CST techniques. I see results. The initial results are better overall posture and relief of symptoms. Over months of regular treatment, I see some spinal straightening. In an adult, bone takes it's time reconfiguring. But given enough time, the body can rebuild almost anything. Having the bodywork is a key, but so is eating right and exercising according to the muscles you need to strengthen and those you need to stretch.
Rolfing is a more direct modality, but also more abrupt. My personal opinion is that it does not provide as complete a release as MFR can. (When you pull apart a fascial adhesion, you leave velcro-like tendrils of collagen just waiting to re-adhere. The MFR causes a natural melting and lengthening to the elasto-collagenous complex.) But I think the absolute best results can be gotten by combining Rolfing work (or other structural integration or deep connective tissue work) with the MFR/CST work. In fact, I'm going to be getting preliminary training in structural connective tissue massage later this year, specifically because I believe that it's the key to a magical combination.
I hope this post was not too lengthy. I am only hoping to help those of you who are looking to an alternative to more radical treatments or something natural to prevent your condition from getting worse (or to reverse it.) Even if you do decide for bracing or surgery, these therapies can be a wonderful adjunct to your recovery. Anyone may feel free to email me for more information.