Massage Therapy and Fascial Release

I wanted to discuss my Fascial Release treatment today as one of the most important modalities that I use. It is quite a deep subject and I could go on for hours about it but just the basics I think will do and how it ties in with my treatment philosophies and how it is helpful for my patients is what I will focus on. Fascial, essentially, is what helps to create the structures in our body (bones, tendons, muscles, nerves, organs ect.) but it also helps to hold these structures together and is the reason for the shape that we are.

I thought that Wikipedia had a good definition so I hope they don’t mind if I borrow from them.

Fascia (făsh’ē-ə), pl. fas·ci·ae (făsh’ē-ē), adj. fascial (făsh’ē-əl) (from latin: a band) is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body. It interpenetrates and surrounds musclesbones,organsnervesblood vessels and other structures. Fascia is an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior. It is responsible for maintaining structural integrity; for providing support and protection; and acts as a shock absorber. Fascia has an essential role inhemodynamic and biochemical processes, and provides the medium that allows for intercellular communication. Fascia functions as the body’s second line of defense against pathogenic agents and infections after theskin. After injury, it is the fascia that creates an environment for tissue repair. So a fascial adhesion which occurs post injury, can affect the repair of that same tissue.

Where I come in to all of this is that if there is a discontinuity or change to the function of the fascia, it can effect the body in many ways, including the functions stated above. I concentrate more on structural fascial and myofascial (fascia that surrounds the muscle) in the way that they affect movement and posture and balance, which is what I see come into the clinic quite often.

Another groups of conditions that has begun to trickle into the clinic are conditions arising from disfunction to the fascia surrounding the organs. The organs that I traditionally deal with are the liver, gall bladder, stomach, lungs, large and small intestines, bladder, prostate, uterus. This form of treatment is very non-invasive (for those of you who saw the bladder/prostate and cringed). The bladder/prostate work can be accessed in the lower abdomen area just below the belly button. With their respective attachments, each organ has a movement is must be allowed to do during both it’s functions and during general body movements. Clients have come in with complaints attached to digestion such as reflux, gas, constipation, diarrhea, dry stool which can all be attributed to adhesions somewhere along the course of the digestive system. Constipation, for example can be a spasm causing the valve between the small and large intestine.  It’s a newer approach to adhesions causing trouble with the functions of organs.

As example as what can happen with tight abdominal fascia, think what would happen if you had some of those full body pajamas on and you’re sitting in a chair. You spill some sticky glue on your front but you stay there for a while, until the glue hardens. When you go to sit up, the now inelastic fibers of the front of your pajamas  will make it difficult to stand up straight because they won’t stretch. It also affects the way that the rest of the pajamas pull to compensate. This is an extreme example, but shows how restricted fascia can affect a local area and also affects the chain of fascia around the rest of the body.

Again, I could go on for a long time about different effects of dysfunctional/adhered fascia, but in a nutshell, Fascial adhesions don’t let things happen that need to happen and puts the body into a state of imbalance and dysfunction. My job is to locate the adhesions and release them so that the normal function and movement occurs and allows the body’s natural balanced position occur easier. It is an interesting process as often the best approach is a much more gentle approach. I hold the pressure to release the adhesion and often it won’t move for at least a minute, then slowly, the adhesion begins to unwind, producing a significant release allowing movement of the structures surrounding it. Often I combine other modalities with fascial release including trigger point release, muscle energy techniques, joint play to name a few. With fascial release, toxins are always released so I always flush out the area to return the venous circulation to the heart to be expelled.

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