Understanding Fascia

Myo- refers to muscle, and -fascial to the three-dimensional network of densely woven, incredibly tough connective tissue that surrounds and inundates every organ, muscle, nerve, bone and vessel in the entire body. Imagine the fascia in your body like a spider's web or sweater. Instead of a system of separate coverings, it is a
single structure that exists from head to toe. In this way, you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is inextricably connected to every other part by the fascia, like yarn in a sweater.

In a normal healthy state, the fascial system maintains the body in equilibrium through a delicate balance of tension and elasticity. With the proper amount of tension, it helps support the efficient alignment of your bones while being elastic enough to permit full, unrestricted movement.

However, in response to physical trauma or inflammation, it begins losing its pliability. Slips and falls, whiplash, surgery or just habitually poor posture create fascial restrictions that accumulate over time. Once these restrictions start exerting abnormal pressure on bones, joints, nerves, blood vessels and even organs, they unbalance the system, creating pain both locally and in seemingly unrelated areas of your body. While your pain is all too real, the true cause is too often overlooked by conventional medical practitioners since fascial restrictions do not show up on ordinary diagnostic tests such as MRI's, CT scams and X-rays.

Fortunately, under sustained, low intensity pressure fascia slowly lengthens and eventually remains that way. To get a release that won't spring back, Myofascial therapists stay with a stretch and follow a restriction three-dimensionally for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. A low intensity, sustained stretch is necessary because connective tissue reacts differently
to stretching than muscle tissue. While muscle responds to a relatively firm stretch, the collagen in fascia is extremely tough and resistant to quick, hard stretching. Myofascial therapists stretch a fascial restriction to its barrier, wait for a release to continue, go to the next barrier, and so on. Eventually you will regain the fascial flexibility that will once again allow the muscles and joints to move as they were designed.

In addition to fascial restrictions that may limit function, one can also develop a pattern of muscular holding or guarding that may originally be beneficial in reducing pain producing movement of the injured area. However, when these patterns of guarding persist for extended periods of time they can become a source of pain and limitation in and of themselves.

The Myofascial Release paradigm of care means your therapist will treat you as a unique individual. You are given a whole body evaluation which allows your therapist to view you as the product of your cumulative experiences in life. This examination takes into account your activity level, typical posture, past surgeries and recent as well as past traumatic events.

The Body/Mind Connection.   Complete healing involves more than structural improvements alone. To create positive, lasting changes in your body, a shift in awareness is necessary as well. The relaxing studio setting in combination with the slow, deliberate nature of Healing Motion's myofascial techniques and the focused intention of our therapists create the right environment for these shifts to occur. The first step in this process is to calm your nervous system by relaxing your body and quieting your mind. In this state, you can listen more consciously to the experience of your own body. With this enhanced awareness, you can start to let go of old patterns, making way for a freer, healthier way of being. Often this involves a process called myofascial unwinding.

Myofascial Unwinding.  Myofascial unwinding
is the spontaneous movement of your body via the mind. With unwinding you will achieve tremendous fascial releases three-dimensionally. The therapist eliminates gravity from the system, unloading the structure to allow your body's gravity-oriented, righting reflexes and protective responses to temporarily suspend their influence. Your body is then free to move into positions that allow repressed state- or position-dependent physiologic (flashback) phenomena to rise to consciousness. As your system spontaneously moves, it will eventually find a significant position in space that will bring up old memories, emotions, or sensations. These represent past trauma and allow your body-mind to learn, to shift, to heal.

As unwinding occurs within the safe environment of a treatment session, the patient and therapist facilitate the body's own inherent self-correcting mechanism to obtain improvement. MFR and unwinding connect us with our true essence to allow for authentic healing and a fulfilling and meaningful life.

Myofascial Rebounding.   Myofascial rebounding bridges the gap between the more structural techniques of myofascial release and myofascial unwinding, and is the third major component of the myofascial release approach. Since the human body is composed largely of fluid enclosed by various membranous sacs (fascia), myofascial rebounding addresses the elastic and fluid components of the fascial system, enhancing the flow of energy throughout the body. This maximizes the effectiveness of Myofascial Release in reducing pain, increasing function, and improving awareness.

Rebounding also confuses the neuromuscular system to help free your body of its muscular bracing or holding patterns. It's a kind of "sneaky" way in the "back door" to help eliminate long standing guarding patterns that are typically very resistant to more direct bodywork approaches Your nervous system does not know what to do with the newly released energy or the changing movement patterns induced by your therapist, so it just lets go. Myofascial Release and Myofascial Unwinding are an important combination that acts as a catalyst in rapidly progressing your healing journey.

Effects of Treatment.  While myofascial release is gentle, it has profound effects upon your body tissues. Do not let the gentleness deceive you. While each patient's response will be highly individual, certain common responses are seen repeatedly. Occasionally you may leave after a first treatment feeling like nothing happened. Later (even a day later), the effects of the treatment begin to manifest themselves.

Often there is soreness after treatment for several hours or perhaps a day. The discomfort is a result of the released tissues secreting lactic acid and other trapped metabolic wastes into the intercellular spaces where it can then be excreted via the body's normal pathways. The best way to aid this process is by drinking extra water which helps flush toxins out of the body.

Frequently remarkable improvement is noted immediately during or after a treatment while at other times improvement comes after the soreness described above. Other typical responses reported by patients include: seemingly new pain in new areas, lightheadedness or nausea, and emotional responses such as joy or sadness. In any case, it is all part of the healing process.

Generally, acute cases are typically resolved with a few treatments. The more chronic the problem, the longer it usually takes to bring lasting results. Some chronic conditions that have developed over a period of years can require two or three treatments a week to obtain optimal results. Once the chronic condition has significantly improved, less frequent treatments can help to maintain the patient's progress. Many patients find that once the pain has subsided, one treatment every few weeks can keep them in good condition.

Experience has shown that very infrequent treatments will often result in fascial tightness creeping back to the level that existed prior to the last treatment. To help ameliorate this process, your therapist will give you stretching and self-treatment exercises to do at home to maintain the gains realized during your treatment.

Click here to read some frequently asked questions about Myofascial Release.

For more information, visit my mentor, John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release Treatment Centers in Paoli, PA or Sedona, AZ.