Completing 10 sessions of Rolfing® structural integration (RSI) was shown to decrease pain and improve range of motion among people who sought treatment for complaints of neck pain and limited neck motion.

The study, “Rolfing structural integration treatment of cervical spine dysfunction,” was retrospective research that involved a total of 31 patients, six males and 25 females, ages 22 to 66, with a median age of 52 years.

All subjects completed 10 sessions of RSI between 2002 and 2005. All sessions were administered at the same physical therapy private practice, by the same RSI advanced practitioner, also a professor emeritus of the physical therapy department at California State University, Fresno.

Researchers compared baseline measures, taken during each subject’s initial evaluation appointment, with outcome measures, taken at each subject’s final evaluation. All information was drawn from subjects’ files at the physical therapy practice.

Clinical data collected included pain levels and active range of motion (AROM) for neck rotation, lateral flexion, extension and flexion. Pain levels were assessed using either a zero-to-five or zero-to-10 self-report. AROM was assessed using an arthrodial protractor, aligned with standard boney landmarks of each subject’s body.

Results of the research revealed significant improvements in pain and AROM after subjects received 10 sessions of RSI. Levels of pain reported at “best,” “worst” and “now” were significantly lower, and the amount of AROM into rotation, lateral flexion, extension and forward flexion all were significantly increased after RSI.

“The mean values of pain levels for all the subjects significantly decreased following the 10 sessions of RSI,” state the study’s authors. “The mean values of AROM for all the subjects significantly increased after the treatment.”

According to researchers, “pain now” was reduced most by RSI, decreasing by 65 percent, followed by “pain at best,” which showed a 63-percent reduction. “Pain at worst” decreased by 39 percent.

As for AROM, neck rotation left showed a gain of 13 degrees following 10 sessions of RSI, and neck rotation right showed the same improvement. Left lateral flexion increased by 8 degrees, and right lateral flexion gained 7 degrees. Neck extension improved by 5 degrees, and neck flexion improved by the same amount.

“This investigation suggested that the basic 10 sessions of RSI, when applied by a physical therapist with advanced RSI certification,” state the study’s authors, “decreases pain and increases cervical AROM in adult subjects, male and female, with complaints of cervical spine dysfunction, regardless of age.”

Authors: Helen James, Luis Castaneda, Marilyn E. Miller and Thomas Findley.

Sources: California State University, Fresno; University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences at San Diego; and Center for Healthcare Knowledge Management in East Orange, New Jersey. Originally published in Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (2009) 13, 229-238.