Michael Stanborough

How did you get into your area of expertise and why do you stay?

I trained in massage at the Boulder School of Massage, Colorado, in 1979-80. While I was there, I received work from a Rolfer and right away I was certain this was the path I wanted to pursue. I loved the effect on my body and mind: the work was penetrating and produced powerful results. I was hooked.


The Rolf Institute is in Boulder, so it was relatively easy to get into. I’ve been working with this approach for nearly 40 years now. It works and, in my opinion, works better than any other approach I have received or trained in.

What has been the main focus or outcomes of your research/work over the past year?

I’ve been delving right down into molecular biology, looking for insights into what is happening when I touch a client – why and how does the tissue change and, even more importantly, how does this affect the person’s sense of self and wellbeing.


I’m not a researcher but a magpie who collects bright shiny objects that show up at the Fascial Congresses, and then bring them back to my nest for consideration; it’s here empiricism meets literature review. How does this research fit with what I observe? Can I modify what I do so that I can encourage these physiological processes more fully?

How has your field changed in the past 5 years? What new areas are emerging?

For a long time, Rolfers and some Osteopaths were the ones interested in fascia. The last 10 years have seen an explosion in the amount of published research into fascia and more broadly, connective tissue, especially the ECM.


While some of my colleagues are disputing the whole ‘evidence-based’ idea as being flawed, I’m personally delighted to have all this information in circulation. Last year, it was announced that the interstitium (ECM) is now considered a new organ system and deserves a lot of attention.

What do you predict will happen in the next 5 to 10 years in your particular field?

Within Australia, Rolfing and structural integration, in general, will have very small practitioner numbers, just as we do now. There’s nothing approaching a tipping point in terms of widespread adoption of the method.


On a global scale, I think interest in fascia will only increase especially as it’s now clear many diseases have their formation in the interstitium/ECM. There’s a tremendous amount of research out there already; only some of which has relevance to manual therapy but all of it is fascinating. It does require a bit of upskilling to learn the terms of molecular biology but I’m committed and interested in learning all I can.

What is the number one way we, as natural medicine practitioners, can make a difference for our clients?

Today, it’s to form a warm therapeutic relationship with them and from within help normalise their situation, to reduce anxiety and chronic pain.

What’s the questions you get asked the most often in your field, and how do you answer it?

Why don’t we learn more about this in massage school? My answer is usually – VET sector, training packages and funding are often the result. 

Fun Fact for the Readers: Tell us who inspires you / or who your professional idol is and why?

It’s still Dr Rolf. The term ‘genius’ might be a bit full-on but I think she was an exceptional person. The fact that we are saying ‘she’ rather than the much more common ‘he’ says a lot – she was a woman in science in the first part of the 20th century and that was just uncommon. Dr Rolf was a person with an outstanding intellect and was profoundly curious about health.

Michael Stanborough will present at the upcoming National Seminar Series: Connective tissue dynamics: from health to disease in Sydney on 3 November and on the Gold Coast on 2 November.