Massage for Pain Relief is pleased to start offering Myofascial Release, for the health and well being of our clients. This is a very unique and powerful form of bodywork, that targets the fascia and is designed to gently and effectively release fascial restrictions. Results from this work can be profound, affecting the whole person, on the physical, mental and emotional level.
What is Fasica?
The basic premise of Myofascial Release is that much of the pain, dysfunction, and poor health we experience is related to the fascial system, and restrictions present within the fascial system. The fascia is a strong, fibrous substance, that takes many forms throughout the body. Bones, ligaments, tendons, even blood, are forms that fascia can take within the body. As a system, the fascia is ubiquitous. It provides the physical structure that holds every cell in the body in place. It transmits the force of the muscles, allowing us to move. It creates the structure of the bones, giving us support and strength. It holds all of our organs in place and comprises the environment within which all of our physiological processes happen. There is not a cell in our body that is not bound within and affected by fascia.
It is important to emphasize that the Fascia is a full body system. To say that “it is all connected” is a bit of a cliché within bodywork. The Fascia provides a direct mechanism that links everything in our body to everything else. What this means is that things that affect the fascia in one place will create patterns and forces that spread throughout the entire body. This is one way in which problems with the foot can create pain in the back, or problems in the hands can create pain in the neck. It is like a spider’s web. Pull on one part, and the whole thing stretches in response.
So what is the problem with Fascia?
The fascia is meant to be elastic and pliable, but also strong and resilient. It is healthiest when it is warm, hydrated, and moving. Unfortunately, there are many things that happen to us that make the fascia cold, dry and stuck. Hardened, stuck fascia can lead to pain and dysfunction, and due to the full body nature of Fascia, dysfunction in one part often leads to problems elsewhere. Fascia that is too tight can put pressure on pain sensitive structures such as nerves, blood vessels, muscles, joints and bones. How does fascia become hard and dry and stuck? There are many ways. Trauma is a major reason for fascial restriction. Trauma and injury, and the shock and fear that come with it, create patterns of guarding in the muscles that over times hardens within the fascial system. Even if the muscles themselves relax, the fascial envelopes they rest in stay tight, limiting the effectiveness of relaxation alone. Patterns of use also create restrictions. If we hold one position for long periods, such as sitting at a desk or leaning over a table, the fascia will harden in that position. Postural habits become embedded in connective tissue, so that there is a tendency to return to our habitual shape when we are not actively thinking about changing it. Even patterns of thought and emotion become embedded in our fascial system. Think about postures associated with emotional states, like the raised shoulders of fear and anxiety, or the slump of depression. If our bodies are stuck in postures due to fascial restriction, perhaps our emotions are stuck there with them. And indeed, release of the fascial system can release emotions that we have forgotten that we have, buried as they are in patterns and habits we are no longer aware of.
How can we help?
In order to address problems within the fascia, we need to address the fascia directly, and we need to use a set of techniques that is designed to work with the fascia specifically. Myofascial Release is just such a technique. The key parts of Myofascial release are patience, gentleness, and a centered awareness.
Patience: The fascia is an incredibly strong substance, designed to withstand tremendous force. Our bones, ligaments, and tendons are all made of fascia, and are remarkably resilient. We can think about bound up fascia like a tangled ball of yarn. If we want to unravel it, it makes no sense to pull on it with a lot of force. That only makes it more tangled. The body is the same way. If we apply a lot of force over a short time to the fascia, the body interprets that as needing to make the fascia stronger, thicker, harder, and it will do the opposite of what we want. If we want the fascia to unwind and release, we must be patient and allow it to happen slowly, just like unravelling a ball of yarn.
Gentleness: As we are working with patience, we also need to be gentle with the fascia and with ourselves. If we push too hard or too fast, the fascia will push back and it will prevent release. Rather, we need to go to the point where we are encouraging the tissue to release and no further. Then we must treat our bodies with respect and compassion and recognize that there is a rhythm and pace to the changes that happen within our tissues that we cannot rush, and cannot avoid. If we want the fascia to release, it will do it in its own time and we must respect that or it will not happen at all.
Centered Attention: As the fascia releases, it creates a lot of very subtle changes and sensations, that you as a client can participate in and that I as a therapist must be sensitive to. It takes a quiet and centered awareness to follow the subtle movements of the fascia as it releases. It is something that I as a therapist strive for, and that you as a client can cultivate, in order to allow healing to happen. If we can follow the movement of the fascia, we can find and address ever deeper and more established patterns of restriction. The release of these restrictions can have profound impacts on our life.
Practicing with patience, gentleness, and a centered attention, we take the fascia into a position that works gently to open up bound areas, and wait for the tissue to respond. The strong part of the fascia will not start to respond until about 90 seconds have elapsed. Then the tissue will start to unwind, layer by layer, bind by bind. We continue to hold the position as the tissue releases, and try to find the places that will encourage more release to happen. In Myofascial Release, it is not uncommon for a single hold to last 10 minutes or more.
What Myofascial Release feels like is very different for different people. It might be uncomfortable, or it might be blissful. It is a very individualized approach, and people’s response is very individual as well. Due to the amount of respect and gentleness within Myofascial Release, it is very unlikely to cause pain and injury. However, due to the ability to address profound and deep patterns, it is possible to uncover pain that has laid long dormant. All of these are normal responses to the work.
Please feel free to ask more about Myofascial Release. This is a very brief introduction to the basic premise of the work, and I will be adding more information in the coming weeks. I look forward to working with you towards health and well-being!