Improving Body Alignment and Function with Rolfing Structural Integration
Nov 02, 2017 06:22PM
By Sheila Julson
Licensed physical therapist and Certified Advanced Rolfer Kevin McCoy was a competitive gymnast during high school and college. During the early 1980s, while finishing his undergraduate studies in physical education at UW-La Crosse, he suffered a debilitating shoulder injury that limited his range of movement, and, ultimately ended his collegiate athletic career. To find relief, McCoy tried Rolfing Structural Integration, a hands-on therapy that reorganizes the connective tissue (fascia) within the body. The technique, founded by biochemist Ida P. Rolf, Ph.D., looks at the whole body and how it relates to the field of gravity, and then alters posture and body structure in order to relieve pain.
“I tried Rolfing Structural Integration, and it was dramatic in terms of relieving physical discomfort,” McCoy enthuses. “I really felt like it helped me relate to my body, and to my life, in a certain way.” He was so impressed with the modality that he decided to pursue a career as a Rolfer, and attended the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration in both Boulder, Colorado, and Munich, Germany, in order to receive his certification. While there, he interacted with the original five faculty members appointed directly by Rolf herself. In 1985, McCoy became a Certified Advanced Rolfer and began practicing the therapy in Madison.
After graduating from UW-Madison’s physical therapy program in 1997, McCoy moved to California and lived in The Golden State for a few years before moving to New Jersey. Once there, he began working at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, the institute where actor Christopher Reeve had been treated after his spinal cord injury.
“I worked there for four years under my physical therapy license, providing Rolfing Structural Integration for a pain management program,” McCoy relates. “It afforded me the opportunity to work with a lot of individuals afflicted with serious and long-standing pain issues.” He returned to Milwaukee in 2007 and opened Kevin McCoy Rolfing, LLC, with offices in Brookfield and Glendale.
McCoy notes that the therapy can detect overlooked sources of physical discomfort. “If one has lower back pain, it’s easy to think ‘what’s wrong with my back?’ But as Ida Rolf said when referring to pain, ‘Where you think it is, it ain’t,’” McCoy explains. “If I limit my vision and just focus on the back, I may be missing the fact that if there isn’t adequate support in the feet or the legs, or not enough adaptive capacity at the hip joints, that can affect overall body structure, causing pain and discomfort.”
Another principle of the modality is that the body has plasticity, meaning that it is changeable and can be structurally realigned. “As Rolfers, we introduce little changes that slightly but profoundly affect how we move,” McCoy says.
In McCoy’s practice, patient appointments last 75 to 85 minutes, beginning with a discussion about goals and progress. The hands-on session lasts one hour during which patients lie on a massage table. McCoy says getting Rolfed looks much like a massage, but instead focuses on reorganizing the web-like fascia surrounding bones and muscles. Sessions are customized to the needs of each patient.
McCoy works primarily with adults, including athletes, weekend warriors and those with sedentary lifestyles experiencing pain from hunching over electronic gadgets. “Rolfing helps free up things that are stuck, and helps educate people on how to move and sit,” he says.
Rolfing Structural Integration has grown in popularity since McCoy became certified over three decades ago, and he’s eager to help train aspiring Rolfers. He’s a faculty member at the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, and has taught classes in Boulder, Colorado, as well as in Brazil and Japan. McCoy, who served on the Rolf Institute’s board of directors from 2008 to 2016, and has been a board chair since 2011, will lead an institute-sponsored training session in Milwaukee in 2018.
McCoy says that he enjoys being able to spend one-on-one time with people to support their well-being. “There are few settings where you get that type of interaction with people,” he observes. “Touch is a medium that is very healing for people. They appreciate having someone tend to them in a nurturing way.”
Kevin McCoy Rolfing, LLC, is located at 2985 N. Brookfield Rd., Ste. 5, Brookfield, and 5225 N. Ironwood Rd., Ste. 216, Glendale. For more information, call 262-337-1530 or visit KevinMcCoyRolfing.com.
Sheila Julson is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.