Rolfing Gives People Their “Younger” Bodies Back

Not long ago, Sharalee Hoelscher was seated on an airplane next to a geriatrician, and so she took the opportunity to ask her seatmate a question: “What’s the most important thing we can do now to make old age easier later?”

The doctor didn’t hesitate. “Keep moving!” she replied.

That expert answer validated everything Hoelscher had seen with her own eyes as a healing arts professional. She’s a certified Rolfer, which means that she treats people of all ages who for one of any number of reasons—injury, surgery, repetitive movement, poor movement habits or simply lack of movement—have lost the ability to move easily and painlessly.

Hoelscher is passionate about her work, which she considers more a calling than a career. Perhaps that’s because she knows what it’s like to lose mobility, and then get it back thanks to Rolfing.

Better than Before

In 1991, when a doctor first recommended that Hoelscher see a Rolfer for an injury that was severely limiting her ability to walk, her initial response was “What the heck is that?”

She followed her advice, however, and the results were “marvelous,” she says. “But the thing that really captured my attention was that I found I was better than I was before the injury happened.”

Better yet, the results lasted. 

“Even today, there is zero evidence of any history of injury to my body,” she says. “I do whatever I please—walk, hike, run, anything—with no after effects from that injury.” 

Hoelscher’s immediate reaction was to learn all she could about this form of bodywork, which is nicknamed for its creator, Ida Rolf, and formally called Rolfing Structural Integration.

In 2010, after completing training and certification from the Colorado-based Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, Hoelscher set up practice in Pensacola, where she remains the area’s only certified Rolfer.

How Rolfing Works

Chiropractors work with bones. Massage therapists work with muscles. Rolfers work with soft tissues—ligaments, tendons and fascia (the covering around muscles)—that support the various parts of the body, including the bones, muscles and organs, and keep them where they’re meant to be.

When these tissues shift out of position, get stuck to neighboring tissues or become too taut or too loose, the body can’t move the way it’s designed to, Hoelscher says. So Rolfers use their hands to coax those tissues back into position, with the goal of permanently restoring natural, pain-free movement.  

“Some people have the mistaken impression that Rolfing is about posture or alignment,” she says. “But those are actually side benefits of getting the body moving and functioning properly.” 

Rolfing is designed as a series of 10 sessions of 75 minutes each, typically scheduled a week or two apart to give the soft tissues time to respond. It’s a process that can’t be rushed, Hoelscher says. She likens it to pushing your hands through wet cornstarch: if you’re too forceful, the cornstarch seizes up and won’t move.

“The first thing I tell clients before I touch them is that we’re going to get better results if there’s no pain,” she says. “If there’s pain, there’s a protective reflex in the body that’s going shorten and tighten and prevent any change that we’re trying to produce.”

Many people get better mobility and relief from their pain in the first few sessions, but they’ll get the best results if they complete all 10 Rolfing sessions, Hoelscher says.

“Doing it that way, you address the entire system: front to back, side to side, top to bottom, inside to outside,” she explains. “When people do all 10, I suspect they’ll have the very pleasant surprise of being better off than they were even before they had a reason to seek help. They might feel the way I felt—like I got my younger body back.”

Sharalee Hoelscher has an office at the Madison Park office complex at Bayou and 12th Avenue in Pensacola (Florida license MA34039). For more information, visit her website,

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