I recently went on a course all about myofascial release massage. During this course, I kept thinking of all the different patients I could use fascia treatment on, and it occurred to me that it was every patient.
- Here is a brief rundown on what fascia is and how releasing it can help you heal.
What is fascia?
Fascia is a form of connective tissue that divides structures. There are many layers but they are categorized as the superficial layer and deep layers. The superficial layer is found between your skin and the muscle. And the deeper layers are between muscles, around organs and around vessels like nerves.
The superficial layer has been coined a ‘fluid highway’ as this is where your vessels travel through to get to your organs and muscles. We need our arteries, veins and nerves to run smoothly so they can supply and remove nutrients to our muscles.
The deep layers help divide muscles and create space to allow sliding. If the fascia is dehydrated, adhered or stuck then the muscles can not slide. The deep layers also penetrate the muscle and new research has shown that our nerve endings end in our fascia, not our muscles. If the nerves are telling our brain when something is wrong, it is our fascia giving the messages.
How can fascia slow healing?
When we get injured our body naturally creates an inflammatory process to start the healing. Part of the inflammation is swelling and often the swelling will turn in to scar tissue. This scar tissue can be found at all levels from the skin, through the fascia and into many layers of muscle. A small amount of scarring is often referred to as an adhesion.
Adhesions and scars in the superficial facial layer can limit vessel flow and superficial muscle function. As mentioned above if the deep fascia is stuck between muscles, they cannot slide independently from each other.
For example, your middle trapezius muscles do a different job to your upper trapezius muscles. When they get stuck together, both muscles just work like an upper trapezius which leads to hunched shoulders. When we release between them, they can relax and go back to doing their individual jobs.
How can massage help?
Myofascial release massage is a slow, gentle, stretching technique where the therapist will run their hands, forearm or thumbs along different parts of each muscle. The aim is to create space. By stretching the area above, below and between muscles we essentially carve out each muscle to allow it to perform its full independent function.
This type of massage always starts at the top layer, so your body gets used to the stretching feeling before going deeper. The other bonus about myofascial release massage is the systems in your body that it works. The rest, digest and recover (the parasympathetic system) is stimulated which encourages your body to heal better, faster.