By Laura G., LMP
The Nature of Fascia
Fascia is connective tissue that’s made of thin sheets of collagen, the main protein that supports all of our bodily tissues and organs. This paper thin tissue wraps each muscle fiber, group of fibers, muscle, group of muscles, and lastly each limb. Layers of fascia go from very superficial (directly under the skin) to very deep (inside joint capsules). Regular movement and good hydration keep fascia healthy. When fascia is working correctly, it provides a flexible structural support to your organs and muscles.
When muscles are tight and circulation is sluggish, fascia becomes dehydrated and sticky. The layers may of fascia may stick together or fascia may stick to muscles or skin. Following an injury, fascia may also become attached to scar tissue as it forms. Because these adhesions are frequently painful to stretch, they tend to persist, limiting free movement and reinforcing dysfunctional muscle patterns. A person may feel a burning or tearing sensation when these adhesions are stretched.
Adhesions Restrict Movement and Effect Posture
If the adhesions are close to the skin, there may be a feeling of tension around the affected muscles or even in the whole limb. A large area may feel too tender to touch. This painful, restricted feeling discourages a person from using the full range of his or her muscles and thus these adhesions limit movement. As movement decreases, fascial adhesions become more solidified and muscle patterns become more entrenched. When there are long term adhesions, even thorough massage that works the muscles, can still leave us feeling as if some tension was fully addressed.
Myofascial Release is massage designed specifically to address the problems associated with fascial adhesions. Myofascial massage is usually done without oil, so that the individual layers of fascia can be felt by the therapist. Although there is a common perception that fascial massage is painful, there are many forms of fascial massage. Some are very light to work on the superficial layers. Others use movement to release adhesions in the joints and deep muscles. Still others release fascial layers between muscles.
Though the breaking up of fascial adhesions can feel like a burning or tearing sensation, most fascial massage is not painful or uncomfortable. A skilled practitioner releases fascial adhesions gently and without pain. People who receive fascial massage usually experience a sense of profound relaxation as long standing patterns of posture and movement open up to freer movement. Many also feel a sense of emotional openness as these patterns release.
When combined with specific muscle work, myofascial massage promotes more rapid progress toward postural balance and injury recovery. Fascial massage addresses chronic pain patterns as well. Releasing fascial adhesions relieves pain patterns that other modalities may miss. Including fascial work in one’s massage regimen promotes an added sense of ease and freedom of movement to the other numerous benefits of regular massage. If you are experiencing chronic movement limitations, stubborn pain patterns or areas of extreme tenderness, myofascial massage may be just the answer.