'I first became fascinated with fascia during my training in Holistic and Therapeutic Massage as I experienced it's potential to promote positive change within the body first hand. It seemed to be the missing link that I was looking for, integrating physical and emotional wellbeing and bringing a sense of the body as a whole with it's own biotensegral structure. After my initial introduction and personal experience of the huge benefits of this therapy, I went on to complete post graduate training to become an Advanced Myofascial Release Therapist. I continue learn more in this advancing field of research all the time and am delighted to be able to offer MFR as a therapy in Peebles Physiotherapy Clinic and Knot Stressed Massage Clinic in Edinburgh. Often my clients want to know more about what fascia is and how MFR works and so I thought I would write a blog post on it and include some links to research for those who want to know more.
What is Fascia?
Myofasical Release is different to other forms of bodywork as it specifically targets the fascia of the body using specific techniques and an awareness of the fascial structures within the body.
Fascia is defined by John Barnes, a leading MFR therapist in his article 'Crushing Pressure' below,
'Fascia is tough, connective tissue that spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. The fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ of the body, all the way down to the cellular level. Therefore, malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, surgery or inflammation can create a binding down of the fascia, resulting in abnormal pressure on nerves, muscles, bones or organs.'
Fascia has four basic functions within the body which are documented in by Robert Schlep in Fascial Fitness as, 'Shape: to encase, protect and give structure. Movement: to transfer and store energy, maintain energy and stretch Supply: to metabolise energy, transport fluid and carry nutrients. Communication: to receive and transmit stimuli and information. Keeping fascia healthy is therefore vitally important to maintaining the wellbeing of the body as a whole.
How is fascia related to chronic pain and postural patterns?
In our bodies we store physical and emotional tension and over time and if this tension is not released it can cause restrictions. In some cases these restrictions become chronic causing pain, changes to your normal range of motion and perhaps even start to impact on your daily life and the things you are able to do. Our bodies are constantly forming new connections within our fascial web, which responds to the daily demands we put upon it. If we habitually move or sit in a certain way then the body will respond and grow to adapt to it. This holds true if we spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, out walking, rock climbing or recovering from an injury. As the body responds to these demands it lays down new fascial connections via cells known as fibroblasts. These adaptions may however cause their own problems as anyone who has sat at a desk all day and experienced tight shoulders and an achy lower back will know. It may also be that we have become injured or undergone surgery and whilst the body is healing it makes protective compensations not just at the site of injury but in other areas of the body too. All of these situations can lead to fascial restrictions whereby postural habits and tensions become long term patterns which can cause chronic pain.
'The Body Keeps The Score'
It is well documented that emotional stress and tension is also stored within our bodies.In 'The Body Keeps the Score' Bessell Van de Kolk writes, 'We can get past the slipperiness of words by engaging the self-observing, body-based self system, which speaks through sensations, tone of voice and body tensions. Being able to perceive visceral sensations is the very foundation of emotional awareness.' Our bodies store tension in our fascial network as a way of holding on to a charge created by our nervous system when it is highly activated in a stressful situation. If we are unable to release and process this tension then the body will hold it until it feels safe enough to be able to discharge it. We can all relate to the feeling of tight shoulders at the end of a stressful day or having the weight of the world seemingly lifted after we are able to laugh or connect with friends or nature. However, sometimes stress and nervous system activation can take place over a long period of time and become chronic or we might experience a traumatic event that we are unable to process or release. This emotional stress is then held in our bodies in our fascial network and causes chronic tension and restrictions which manifests as long term pain and postural adaptions. Very often restrictions in the fascial system will have both a mechanical and an emotional element to them as the event, injury or experience that caused it was both painful to the body and emotionally stressful. If you are holding emotional trauma within your body, it may be that speaking with a qualified counsellor or EMDR therapist would be helpful alongside bodywork.
How can Myofascial Release Help?
During Myofascial Release the therapist moves, stretches and holds the body using techniques which release restricted areas of fascia and helps to bring awareness to allow for new postural movements and changes within the fascia to take place. Myofascial release techniques start to unpick the areas of restrictions caused by bound, dehydrated tissue within the fascia to allow more gliding between tissues, increased hydration of the tissues, increased cellular exchange and improved structural balance within the body. During a session you might experience feelings of deep relaxation, tingling, hot or cold sensations, emotional release and neuromuscular release as the body feels safe enough to release old holding patterns and the associated charge they hold. New more helpful postural patterns can be taken up as fibroblast cells lay down new connections within the tissues leading to profound changes within the facial structures of the body. These changes can lead to increased freedom of movement in the body, reduced pain and an increased amount of available energy for life.
Studies and Advancing Research
There is currently much interest and research into fascia by scientists and bodyworkers alike. It is a very exciting area of discovery and I am delighted to be working within this field.
Below I have included some links and resources for further reading/watching for those who are interested in going deeper....
Anatomy Trains - Myofascial Meridians for Manual Movement Therapists - Tomas Myres
Dr JC Gimberteau video of our fascial network using endoscopes to look inside the living human body
Robert Schleip - Fascial Fitness Lotus Publishing 2021
Where can I find MFR treatments?
I am currently offering Myofascial Release at Knot Stressed Clinic in Edinburgh and at Peebles Physiotherapy Clinic. To book a session use the booking page on this website.
Kristina is a Massage, Myofascial Release and Yoga Therapist who lives in Peebles in the Scottish Borders with her husband, two children and two cats. Kristina teaches One on one yoga, Pregnancy yoga and Sacred Cycles Yoga and offers massage and MFR bodywork in venues in Edinburgh and Peebles.