Myofascial Release

This is probably the most important blog entry for me so far as it is made the most profound effect on my philosophy and treatment protocol. The treatment is called Myofascial Release Therapy. What makes it so significant is what a profound effect Fascial Tissue has the body when the tissue is in a dysfunctional phase.

So, first of all, to appreciate what myofascia is, I think a person needs to understand what it is. Here is a good write up of what Fascia is:

Myofascia is the tough, fibrous connective tissue glue that holds us together. It spider webs throughout our body, forming organ cavities, membranes, coverings for our bones, muscle and circulatory system.

 It makes up ligament, tendon and scar tissue. Myofascia is made up of elastin, collagen, and a liquid component called ground substance.

Elastin provides a degree of pliability to the system. Collagen gives this tissue its strength.

Myofascia weaves its way throughout the body in a pattern that is unique to each individual. Unlike the muscles of the body that have a predictable origin and insertion, the route that myofascia takes is determined by each individual’s stress on the body, beginning at birth.

This fascial pattern is constantly changing. Physical stress in the form of illness, trauma, and postural changes cause a tightening down of the fascial system. Mental stress has been shown to trigger tightening as well. Over time, this can result in abnormal pressure on the nerves, muscles, bones or organs.

We are literally being squeezed from the inside, and numerous symptoms begin to emerge. We may experience pain, loss of motion, decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, and inability to relax and sleep. The myofascia becomes very hard and sticky. It doesn’t allow proper distribution of fluid throughout the body.

I think that description is totally brilliant and to the point.  One of the important facts about it is that it is totally unpredictable and different for each person so there is no “one way to approach it”.  Restrictions in Fascia can great large, traveling up the outside of the leg to the lower back, or can be very focused, as in an adhesion that forms between the vertebrae  (bones) in the back, causing one vertebrae to rotate, causing low back pain, sciatica, with a myriad of symptoms that can be local  or manifest  anywhere in the body.

The important thing is to think  of the body as a whole. It’s not just a foot, or leg, or pelvis or low back. Very often an adhesion in the body can force the rest of the body to adapt to compensate. For example, if an adhesion form in the tissue and muscles on the right side of your neck and it pulls your head over to the right. The balance system in your inner ear really really wants your head to be level but the tight tissue on the right side of your neck doesn’t let your head level, so your body will choose to do it in another part of your body, like your mid back, or your lower back, and that strain is where your symptoms will be. It’s very unpredictable. I will have several cases of Frozen Shoulder and each one will be treated differently as each restriction in the shoulder will be different. I’ve had to adapt to listening to the body to find out what has to be done and what the body is willing to do at that point. You can’t force a body that is in pain. You have to assist the body, not force it.

The next important aspect of Fascia is the physical properties of the Fascia itself. To recap, the Fascia is mainly comprised of Collagen fibers, Elastic Fibers and the fluid ground substance. The important consideration is the extraordinarily high fluid content. This can be applied to the entire body. Do not treat the body like a solid when it is more fluid. The tissues can be like a sponge. When you want it to work properly, like wiping down a counter, you add water to it. Similar to tissue. You want fascia to function well, rehydrate the tissue.  That’s a big component of regaining mobility of Fascia, whether it  is big, traveling up the side of your body, or a tiny portion  that has pulled your neck out of position. The position of your framework (the skeleton) is strongly influenced by the tension of the connective tissue that surrounds it. Imagine wearing a tie or long necklace, learning forward a bit and attaching the other end to your belt, then trying to straighten up, but you can’t because of the tension of the tie/necklace. This is what tight fascia in the front can do. I see a lot of this as we’ve become a society that sits and leans forward a lot, but it’s such a missed component of rehab because often it is the mid/upper back that will be strained and hurt as a result. Just from tight fascia in the front of the torso, can manifest in hip, low, mid and upper back pain, neck pain (as the neck tightens to pull the head level, shoulder pain (as shoulders are pulled forward and cannot move properly without pinching and causing pain down the arm) just to name a few. The essence of Fascial work is to release the Fascia that is restricting the body from moving in the manner that it was designed to move in. The body has an amazing ability to self regulate providing that it has an ability to do so. Allow the joint to move in the manner that they were intended to move in and re-enable the tissues that support them and allow them to move.

The other important physical property of the Fascia is the Collagen component. This is the stronger structural component of fascia. When the fascia shortens,  the collagen portion will as well. As we apply force to lengthen it, the nature of the Collagen, is that it generally takes at least 1 1/2 to 2 minutes before it even begins to lengthen. As the tissue lengthens, you follow it as it may change directions.  Again, fascia is not linear and as it releases, and it’s really about following in the direction that the tissue releases. The time spent releasing the tissues (which can be 3 – 5 minutes) is needed so that the tissue will not rebound and return to it’s original length. It’s not about the deeper pressure that you use, but the time that you spend waiting for the tissue release to occur. It’s about creating a long term effect.