Today I listened to an interview with pianist Leon Fleisher where he discusses his memoir My Nine Lives: A Memoir of Many Careers in Music and discusses how Rolfing® Structural Integration is one of the two primary therapies he uses to keep his right hand functional, despite suffering from focal dystonia.
In 1963, Fleisher was a renowned pianist scheduled to tour Russia as soloist with a leading U.S. symphony. He had to cancel the tour because he lost the use of the fourth and fith fingers of his right hand, obviously devastating for a musician. The problem was focal dystonia, a neurological movement disorder, although it wasn't diagnosed for years. As he could no longer perform, he had to switch his career to teaching music, conducting, and learning to perform the one-handed repertoire for piano. To try to regain use of his right hand, he tried many therapies over thirty years. Although there is no cure for focal dystonia, Fleisher has found a combination of therapies that allowed him to once again play and perform with two hands: he gets Rolfing work the day before performing, and botox injections to the contracted muscles every four months (this paralyzes the contracted muscle, which allows the opposing muscle to function). Fleisher reports that "Rolfing is a very healthy modality of physical therapy, thanks to both of them i'm a functioning two-handed pianist."
The Wikipedia entry for Leon Fleisher notes that when he received the 2007 Kennedy center honors he was described as "a consummate musician whose career is a moving testament to the life-affirming power of art." Although a devastating injury or ailment may change one's external reality, Fleisher shows us what can be accomplished with passion, adaptability, and the curiosity to explore alternatives.
Another longer audio interview by Diane Rehm is here, where Fleisher and his co-author share much more about his background as a musician, and how he tried "everything from aromatherapy to Zen Buddhism" to heal his focal dystonia. You can read an earlier interview here, from Structural Integration: The Journal of the Rolf Institute.