What is the Myofascial system?
- Consists of connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons, fascia, muscle fibers, muscle bundles and periosteum.
- This system keeps us upright and held together by connecting and supporting our muscle tissue to our bone structure allowing for movement, reducing friction and protecting most structures in the body.
- The main connective tissue that is manipulated in myofascial release is fascia.
What is Fascia?
- Fascia is dense regular connective tissue, meaning that it has closely bundled collagen fibers allowing the fascia to stretch.
- Fascia is flexible and also has the strength to resist unidirectional tension forces.
- It suspends and holds organs in their proper place.
- Provides a moveable, yet supportive covering for all blood vessels and nerve endings as they pass through the muscles.
Have you ever noticed that white slightly sheer covering on raw chicken before its cooked? That is fascia! Next time try to pull it apart and notice what happens. This tissue is so strong you can't tear it apart with your bare hands but it is also very flexible in the different directions you move it.
Now imagine this tissue all throughout your body holding and supporting major muscle groups together allowing for movement or lack thereof. Sometimes this tissue can get shortened causing a lack of movement or little range of motion in areas of your body. Or as I like to call them restrictions.
How do you release restrictions?
The amazing thing about fascia is it has the ability to lengthen!! Have you ever heard of a colloid? Not to get too scientific for you but a colloid has specific thermodynamic characteristics when subjected to mechanical and thermal forces.
What does this mean? I'll give you an example. Imagine a candle that you have just purchased, you take it home put it in the entry and light the wick. The wax is a colloid and changes from a solid state to a liquid state by the help of thermal forces (heat). When the candle has been lit for a couple of hours you blow it out and the candle changes back from a liquid state to a solid state. But do you notice the difference when it solidifies? It has changed shape.
Your fascia has the same ability to change shape or form when heated and manipulated. My favorite way to describe Myofascial Release is to imagine the body being molded or sculpted back into its proper form by heating the tissue and letting it solidify. Now the question is asked, how does the fascia and surrounding connective tissue heat up? Surely you don't go in with a blow torch to get this accomplished. That would be ridiculous and painful!! Myofascial release is not a painful modality. In fact it is a gentle form of bodywork that produces amazing results! Using slow firm pressure and being patient . . . . . very patient for the restrictive barrier to release and allow to go in a little deeper as each barrier is heated and relaxed. Creating space and lengthening your tissue. This includes no lotion or oil to get a better hold onto the fascial tissues and gentle movement and stretches at the bodies comfort level and capability.
Although Myofascial work is focused on working with the body to loosen muscle and movement restrictions don't expect to get a full body treatment done. This takes time and patience for the fascia to heat, relax and stretch. A helpful hint when getting this type of bodywork would be to focus on your breath. Your breath is so vital throughout your treatment. Your body is designed to release toxins through breath work as well as release tension by improving oxygenation to the muscles themselves. The deeper you breath the more it relaxes your body as a whole by lowering blood pressure as well as your heart rate allowing you to get more oxygen to your muscles. This process helps to relieve pain and increases your blood flow by removing carbon dioxide which is your body's natural waste of your metabolism. Ultimately you will find that taking deep breaths throughout your treatment will help reduce any anxieties and emotional uneasiness bringing clarity and insightfulness instead.
Now that I have talked about what Myofascial Release is and how fascia works you are probably wondering how these restrictions can occur. Let me describe a number of issues that may cause these restrictions. A huge contributor is your daily activities. Whenever you experience too much repetition in one part of the body another will try to compensate for the lack of movement. Imagine you are painter and everyday you bend down, get your brush wet with your dominant hand stand back up and use the same hand in repetition to stroke up and down at the wall you are painting. Does your arm get tired? Of course it does but you eventually get used to it. You go home and feel exhausted in that arm but the interesting part is although you have overworked your dominant arm what happens to the other side of your body? That lack of movement overtime has caused restrictions from trying to support your dominant side. Whats even more alarming is if you have outdone yourself with your repetitive movement you may have damaged muscles from overuse. When this happens the surrounding connective tissues tighten to protect the muscle, discouraging blood flow to the area and causing further tightness.
What if you don't have enough movement in your workplace? Imagine you work at a desk job and you spend the majority of your time hunched over at your keyboard, your back is curved as your neck leans further towards your computer screen. Not to mention the majority of your time is spent sitting in a chair. By the end of the day your neck, shoulders and lower back are screaming for relief. But where you are experiencing pain is not where it is caused. In fact, these areas are actually being pulled by opposing muscles allowing them to overstretch causing soreness. When ultimately your chest, abdomen and hip flexors are being tightened causing restrictions from your lack of movement in these areas! This also happens to your hamstrings as they are flexed while you are sitting causing strain on your lower back. Notice what kind of movement you are experiencing in your daily life. Are you moving too much in a certain area or not enough?
Another couple instances that can cause restrictions in the body are when accidents, surgery or trauma happens to the body, whether it be physical, mental or emotional. This also includes improper injury rehabilitation. Remember when I said fascia is flexible but has great strength? Well what happens when the fascia is restricted and pulls on another area in the body? Your body will compensate to make up for the lack of movement! Thereby creating more pain, strain and overuse on other areas. When a joint capsule does not have full range of motion or when nerves get pinched or stuck by muscles, the connective tissues tighten to protect the area from any further damage also decreasing blood flow. If there is no movement happening nutrients will not be delivered to the damaged area. If the restrictions aren't treated this can continue into a vicious cycle where chronic pain may occur.
So what can you do help treat these restrictions?
- Eat a well balanced diet to get important nutrients in the body.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated as it carries oxygen to the cells of your body and lubricates your joints.
- Exercise regularly to keep your body active, improving circulation, blood flow and oxygen to all muscles. Just make sure to practice proper form and techniques!
- Focus on improving your posture and be mindful of repetitive motions you carry on throughout your day.
- Schedule a myofascial release treatment and learn strength training exercises and stretches from your therapist to help restore balance to your body. With proper rehabilitation and exercises you will experience a quality of life with more movement!
Call today to schedule your myofascial release treatment in Salt Lake City, Utah!