By Kelly Frances
Attention chronic pain sufferers: it’s time to put away your Tylenol. You may, in fact, never have to rely on another pain pill again. Why, you ask, might I suggest such a bold claim? Not least as I am presently hobbling around on crutches after having broken my leg; my body serving as a symbol of all that follows invasive surgery, hunching on crutches after having broken my leg; my body serving as a symbol of all that follows invasive surgery, hunching on crutches, and displaying posture reminiscent of a string puppet. I am the perfect poster child for Western medicine, or rather pharmaceutical driven, instant gratification medicine and my pharamacist and I are on a first name basis. SO how did a pill popper like myself reach a point at which Tylenol was a thing of the past and my aches ailed me no longer? Before you invest in that $800 MRI to find the source of your inexplicable back pain, you may want to make a visit to Dr. Dan Jin. Again, you ask, how and why is this worthy my time?
The answer lies in a technique whose name is reminiscient of the result of too much tequila and reminds us that every aspect of our bodies and being is, in fact, connected. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you “Rolfing,” not to be confused with the dreaded ‘Ralphing’.
‘Rolfing Structural Integration’ is the trademarked name for this system of Structural Integration Soft Tissue Manipulation developed in the 1950s. Dr. Dan Jin of Sky Wellness Center is one of a handful of chiropractors to practice Rolfing in Korea, making him somewhat of a pioneer. He possesses a calm, confident disposition that is well suited to his craft. I approached him with the challenge of treating the chronic head and shoulder pain that was accompanying my injury, but had in fact, been present for decades.
Rolfing can be described as a ‘holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education that organized the whole body in gravity.’ Think of it as a massage during which the patient does a little work, following prompts as a therapist stretches and manipulates the body in a highly controlled fashion. Dr. Dan uses a style of communication that is metaphor-based and easy to follow. Claims by Rolfing enthusiasts include that corrected posture, gained height, and improved movement can be obtained through the correction of soft tissue fixations or an unbalanced posture, but my interest lay in the eradication of chronic pain. After all, six Tylenol a day starts to take a toll on one’s bank account, not to mention one’s liver. Like Tylenol, the effects can be experienced pretty much instantly.
“Think of your head as a bowling ball and your body as a tent whose central point is that ball,” explains Dr. Dan. If that ball is off balance, a number of problems are created, and the potental for health issues is extensive.” Those issues are too numerous to list and include headaches, anxiety, numbness in the fingers and toes, back and shoulder pain and dry eyes – all of which are found on my list of common daily complaints.
Dr. Sean Kim, clinic owner and advocate of Rolfing adds that he’s seen some pretty encoiurage changes in attitude as a result of Dr. Dan’s care.
“We see a lot of chronic pain sufferers who have run the gauntlet here in Seoul and swear they simply can’t be cured. Many suffer from a past injury. They’ve spent hundreds to thousands of dollars and seen numerous specialists and have found no relief. THey leave here feeling like they’ve experienced a miracle. Rolfing is truly that effective.”
During my second session I happened to meet post injury patient Shawn Hupka, who shared his own experience at Sky Wellness Center.
“I strained a muscle in my lower back and it caused me to appear lop-sided. In fact, it was freaky. SKY helped me with a combination of massage and Rolfing. Because my injury was so severe, I’ve been in for seven sessions in the last two weeks. Although I still have some back pain, I’m convinced that they were instrumental in speeding up my recovery.”
His before and after pictures say it all; he entered a virtual Quasimodo and as of May 1, was sporting textbook perfect posture.
Dr. Dan recommends I undergo an anatomical assessment after listening to my complaints of chronic headaches, shoulder and back pain and post surgical ailments, and we begin with a before assessment of my zigzagging posture.
“This is the direction of chiropractic care; we want results that can be seen through before and after photos and we want patients to understand the root of their conditions,” notes Dr. Kim.
According to the team at Sky Wellness Center, 60-70% of patients complain about headeaches behind the eyes combined with shoulder pain. These symptoms, particulary if they are minimized while the patient is lying flat, are hallmarks of posture issues and can be corrected instantaneously by Rolfing.
So back to this strange practice whose name reminds me of a bad drinking night: What was it like, and did it help?
Rolfing is more intense than the deep tissue massages I’d suffered though in the past, yet I found it surprisingly pleasant and invigorating. My sessions lasted 30-60 minutes, and ended with standard chiropractic spine alignment. Dr. Dan uses an Australian lubricating agent made of coconut and beeswax. He explained that every element of the Rolfing process is critical in creating a situation in which the patient is relaxed, but not drowsy, and alert, but not tense. I still breathed deeply as the rooms at Sky Wellness never cease to please with aromas of cedar and plum and the atmosphere is ever-cheerful.
By the completion of my two-week program, I noticed that the pain I had become so accustomed to while pounding away at my keyboard or hunching over my microphone was virtually absent. I’d gone a week without hitting the pharmacy and wondered if my pharmacist might worry I’d bbeen in another accident. As of today, it’s been eight days without a Tylonel and I’m a believer.
Dr. Sean H. Kim, a Korean-American U.S. citizen, is the owner of SKY Wellness Center in Itaewon. He is a U.S. Board Certified Chiropractor. Dr. Jin is the head doctor at SKY. He trained in Australia and is U.S. board certified. He is also Co-founder of the first Pilates association in Korea.
Published in Groove Magazine July 10 issue