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Myofascial Release and the dynamics of working with the connective tissue

Taking a course in Myofascial release has really allowed me to deepen and broaden my work with massage. I love being in a career that has so much room for growth for me. I love delving into the deeper layers of both the physical body and connecting with clients stories.

I have previously done a post on Fascia and this one is to elaborate on the different layers, and the different techniques that can be used within bodywork and how working with the fascia directly can be life changing.

Fascia is responsible for hemodynamic and biochemical processes and provides the medium for intercellular communication.

Hemodynamic is related to the circulatory system and the flow of blood.

Biochemical is related to chemical reactions within a living system.

Intercellular means between the cells of the body.

Those are important to mention and clarify, since they are literally the most important aspects of our systems. Fascia is who we are, physically.

We are energy, materializing in this gorgeous light body of connective tissue, flawless, intelligent, miracles.

The fascia system is a network of tissues that can, and probably is, related to the back pain or stiff tired muscles you might be thinking is muscle. This web of ground substance is relatively new to being looked at as a major player in body health and recovery.

Fascia is multiple layers of tissues that form sheets around your body, and when it/you are under stress the fascia tightens and hardens up, thickens and becomes sticky, limiting motion and the flow of blood and body fluid.

In a healthy natural state fascia is designed to stretch as you move, it is smooth, slippery and flexible, and even change shape and consistency, conducting light and holding liquid, keeping a free flowing system of suspension for our organs, muscles and bones.

When you are dealing with fascia related pain and stiffness, its often from lack of physical movement, trauma or injury, or repetitive motion.

If you think of the fascia system as a blanket or saran wrap covering you, these trigger points or adhesions that develop because of the aforementioned circumstances, are build ups, tension in the fascia that becomes sensitive to touch. What occurs in one part of the tissue can often be affected by seemingly unrelated parts of the body (referred pain).

This kind of interconnectedness is easy to understand in impact injuries. When you stub your toe, the injury resonates through the whole body, all the way to your head, whether you notice or not. The whole body shifts to avoid feeling the pain, the weight on the painful part. The body accommodates and the shifting occurs. Other injuries are more long term, and this accommodation and compensation ends up creating shortening and deviation, becoming a permanent part of the structure. This can obviously begin to affect the surrounding tissues and joints, and the pattern repeats. I love this quote "in the body compensation is life supportive" concerning fascia and injury. The body is constantly going to go toward as much of a state of balance as it can to keep functioning.

The free flow of movement and energy is the contributing factor to our structural balance and our over wellbeing.

This freedom is visible to physically in body contour, and it is possible to infer from someone's shape the state of his of her energy and ease of movement. Restrictions in their posture and distribution of weight.

Muscles contract and thicken as they are being used, as they relax, the area flattens. in an area that does not flatten, there are often accumulations of connective tissue and fat that have become cemented into place over the muscle tissue.

Myofascial Release is a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion

Today we're concerned with the fasciae interacting with muscles, called myofasciae ("myo" refers to muscle tissue). These tissues help the muscle contract and relax properly, but sometimes things go a little awry and the muscles don't fully relax. If you've ever had a "knot" in a muscle then you already know exactly what this feels like. Knots are the result of injured myofascial groups, which become tight and constricted in response to trauma. Don't panic, "trauma" isn't inherently bad. Here it just means something caused a sustained contraction and the muscles are having a hard time relaxing, like frequent exercise or even stress. The fancy word for a knot is "Myofascial Trigger Point".

So, we can now state that: Myofascial Release is the reduction of tension at Myofascial Trigger Points in various muscle groups.


What is the difference between Myofascial Release and Massage?

"Massage therapy involves steady movement, like kneading and stroking, on the muscles to bring relief; myofascial release uses sustained pressure to stretch and lengthen the fascia."


So, how do you Release your Myofascia?

Foam Rollers, lacrosse balls, tennis balls, and various other tools exist to accomplish this goal.

I talk to alot of clients about these techniques and will do a separate post on those tools and ways to use them for self massage and trigger point release.

Some massage therapists are trained in Myofascial Release techniques in addition to classical massage. Really this could be an article in and of itself, but here's the overview of the technique:

1. You identify a trigger point by finding the most tender spot of a muscle. Either palpate (medical term for "touching with a purpose") the sore muscle until you find the tenderest spot, or use one of tools above to do the same. The tender bit is a trigger point. 2. Once you locate the tender spot, begin placing pressure on that spot and hold it. It usually takes 30-90 seconds to feel the muscle relax, the tissue will soften, and the discomfort will recede.

3. Repeat this process with other sore spots one by one, generally moving out from a central part of the muscle.

5 Reasons Why Myofascial Release is Your New Best Friend 1. Myofascial Release helps you relax, Feeling tense is a sign of stress, both physical and mental. This stress can cause the Myofascial Trigger Points we talked about above, and if not dealt with can compound upon itself and get worse over time.

Chronic muscle pain is never a sign of health or balance in the body.

Targeting these pain points with the intent to relieve that stress is inherently relaxing to the muscle, and your emotional tension will benefit from the reduction in pain/discomfort.

2. Myofascial Release reduces pain. There are a couple types of pain you can experience in relation to your muscular system. Sometimes a knot in one muscle cause other muscles to feel sore as the tension spreads throughout the fascial system. When you actively address the knots muscle by muscle, you reduce the pain in that area as well as additional pain experience in the fascial system as a whole.

3. Myofascial Release improves flexibility.

Yoda is great for stringing concepts together ("Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hate; hate leads to suffering.")

Well in our case, Myofascial Trigger Points (knots) are the path to the Inflexible Side. Knots lead to contraction; contraction leads to tighter muscle; tighter muscle leads to less range of motion. When you target the knots for release, you are allowing your muscles to fully relax, which is necessary to safely express the full range of motion for any given muscle/joint group.

4. Myofascial Release helps you recover when you exercise.

The best time for healing is when you're as close to your natural state (called homeostasis) as possible. Knots in your muscles are not homeostatic, and they reduce your ability to recover. If you target and reduce trigger points over the whole of your myofascial system, you improve your body's resting state, and thus your ability to recover from exercise induced traumas.

5. Myofascial Release elevates your mood

So far working on your myofascial health has: reduced tension, reduced pain, improved flexibility, and helped you recover faster from workouts. If all of that isn't enough to put a smile on your face, how about an endorphin cocktail?

Endorphins (root words: "endo-" short for endogenous and "-orphin" short for morphine, meaning "morphine-like substance originating from within the body) are released during exercise, excitement, pain, spicy food consumption, love, and sexual activity.

Myofascial Release can be a little painful because you are working out muscle knots, and that pain causes nerve impulses to travel to the spinal column, and those impulses are met with a release of endorphins to help prevent further pain impulses. Endorphins resemble opiates in their abilities to produce analgesia and a feeling of well-being.

I've learned alot incorporating this incredible therapy into my treatments. The whole world of myofascial release is extensive, this small blip of an article is a basic bit of understanding on why I use it, and how it works. I look forward to continuing my knowledge and skill set as an ongoing love of what I can offer and build upon.

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