You may think the worldwide web is complicated, but have you thought about the complex web inside your body called fascia? Our bones, muscles, nerves, blood vessel, organs and the brain would all just collapse into an unsightly pile of mush if it weren’t for the fascia suspending and holding all these structures in their right places. Fascia connects the big and small, from your skin to the tiny cells of your glands. Fascia is the unsung hero of our connective tissue, composed of collagen, elastin and ground substance, a gel-like material that stores a lot of water. Only in recent years has mainstream medicine begun to recognize the fascia as an organ-like system of vital importance to humans and other living organisms.
If you’ve ever had a chance to prepare a chicken or piece of meat, you may have noticed white stretchy material reaching in every direction, cut through and removed it. This is fascia. We now have 3D images of fascia in living tissue, and it’s incredibly fascinating. This is the stuff that provides elasticity to your body, allowing you to move in different directions and back without deforming like wax.
Fascia is an important part of our body’s communication system. It includes the instant pathways we access in acupuncture to help restore function and balance. We also store memories in our fascia. Traumatic experiences can be hidden away in the fascia and lead to pain and restriction of movement or affect our posture and alignment. Chronic dehydration diminishes the functioning of fascia, making you feel achy, stiff and dry inside. Restrictions in the fascial system affect our heart, lungs, digestive and other systems in the body.
Now that you have some sense of what fascia is, you can probably begin to image how important it is to care for your body’s fascia so that you can feel your best. One very effective approach is a manual therapy technique called myofascial release (MFR). I use this technique with people who have body pain, headaches, constricted movement or distorted posture. It is a slow and gentle process that can lead to release of tension in your body. After a thorough observation of your body, you will be placed on a comfortable treatment table. Skin-to-skin contact is important, so you will be asked to partly disrobe. However, oils or lotion are not used because MFR is not like massage where your therapist slides her hands on your skin and kneads your muscles.
In MFR, we use our hands to sink into the fascia slowly while observing when we reach a barrier where there’s no more give. We stay there for several minutes until we notice a release. This process can remove restrictions that prevent your joints from moving freely. It allows rehydration of the tissues. It can also bring memories to the surface, including some that are rather painful. For some people, this can be a welcome and liberating experience, for others it can be challenging or even overwhelming. It is important to communicate with your therapist about your concerns and experience.
Another important component of caring for your fascia is myofascial stretching. This is something you can learn to do by observing your body’s restrictions carefully and working on these areas regularly. Your MFR practitioner can guide you in this approach, show you tools to use, and explain how to effectively implement this self-care strategy.
Because myofascial release technique is very gentle, it is safe and enjoyable for most people, including children and the elderly. Yet, it is a powerful approach to restoring health and ease to the body. It can serve as a complement to other treatments like acupuncture, herbal therapy and homeopathy.
If you are interested in learning more about myofascial release before deciding to try it, take a look at the many resources published by John F. Barnes and his students, including books and videos online. You’ll find that the web inside you is a network that integrates your being into the wonderful person that you are.
© 2018 Christiane Siebert