By: Michael Hering, LMT
For those of you who have received a massage from me, you very likely have heard me speak of myofascial release or of fascia itself while performing the magical discomfort of myofascial release massage. But for those of you who do not know me or what principles I base my massage style on, may I welcome you to take the next few moments to read about the elaborate system at work at all times in not only all humans but most living beings on Earth...the fascial system!
Now, what exactly is fascia and why do I need to know about it?
Fascia is one of the most deeply researched subjects in human biology today. It is now recognized as the "bridge" between the micro and macro of human anatomy and all its intricacies. What appears only as a semi-translucent sheath within our body is actually what holds it all together! Fascia is covering and supporting every muscle, nerve, organ, blood vessel and bone in our bodies. So it would make sense that the health of our fascia is likely very influential over the rest of our health. It has also been shown how deeply affected the fascial web of our bodies are by injuries, poor posture, emotional strife and other means of disturbance to our overall homeostasis.
Fascia offers protection... but perhaps too much
When guarding an area, the fascia literally "bunches" together and tightens over the afflicted area by pulling the musculature to immobilize it, making somewhat of an internal cast. This fixation and contraction is followed by the beginning of constriction to not only the muscle itself, which in turn will greatly affect the muscles ability to maintain adequate hydration, but also to constrict blood vessels, nerves and eventually the underlying bony structure itself which will then ultimately alter the skeletal structure and weaken a person's overall posture. A very dramatic domino effect like this occurs to millions of people around the world on a daily basis, and up until fairly recently, has been one of the more chronic and elusive bodily issues our species has faced with no critical answer. Everything from shamanic rituals to elaborate major surgeries have been used to preserve our healthy tensional integrity, only to result in little to no benefit, more often than not. Due to these decades of semi-success in the world's leading medical systems, it is safe to say most people in the medical field have a hard time believing that a thorough massage or lying on a well placed ball or roller consecutively over a long period of time could be the solution. But through my decade of experience and through the experience of thousands of other myofascial release specialists over the last 50+ years I can safely say it is!
The Massage Bully
Myofascial release (MFR) is essentially a finely tuned version of Ida Rolf's "Rolfing Method" coined in the 1960s. For my regular visiting clients, you know very well the sensations of this process. For those of you who don't, a MFR massage is not one you are likely to sleep through, although there are always some people out there with unique tolerance to discomfort. Ultimately that sensation of "uncomfortable" is our exact goal! (Unfortunately) The best way to correct the majority of issues that myself and other massage therapists see on a daily basis is almost always to incorporate some form of discomfort. That's because ultimately discomfort is what it takes to get that fascia moving back into its proper state and place. When our fascia settles into its "cast" it is solely to help and protect us. However, the issue with that is it does not go back on its own. If not physically addressed through MFR, the dehydrated and scarred tissue will remain as such for your entire life and may even get worse over that length of time. By applying firm, steady pressure directly atop the dehydrated and fixed tissue, the rebuilding of our foundation can begin! The discomfort is an unfortunate but very necessary process because our muscles would rather not move and just save energy. So my job is to push and "bully" that muscle along.
Benefits of MRF
The ultimate benefits of this medieval-esque practice are immense. Through my own career not only have I seen not only people's physical aches and pains subside, but I've even had people come back to me reporting that the MFR improved their sinus issues, ear aches and auditory issues, digestive issues, respiratory issues, optical issues and even more! Often I've had feedback as to how this greatly aided in emotional issues as well. Given the immensity of our fascial web and how encompassing it is to all of our internal structure, it makes sense that it would have these direct effects to all of these systems.
With all of this said, I do hope you may have a little better understanding of this incredible feature we all have acting inside every single one of us and how universal this practice is to address our discomforts, however major or minor they may be. In my decade of work I have used this practice in almost every single massage I have ever given. I have seen it benefit all my clients regardless of height, sex, gender, skin tone, physique, age, ethnicity and anything in between. At the end of the day, despite whatever differences you may find between yourself and everyone else in the world, the commonalities we all share far outweigh our differences. For we are all human, therefore we are all fascia-bound.
Michael Hering, LMT, specializes in Sports Massage and myofascial release. He is also a Human Biomechanics Specialist Level 1. Michael is on staff at Washington Park Chiropractic.