Unexplainable tightness or pain could be caused by restrictions in our fascial tissue. Wrapping every cell, our fascia, or connective tissue, forms one continuous web from head to toe throughout the entire body, surrounding all structures, not just the muscles. Ideally, the fascia has a fluidity to it, but injuries, surgeries, inflammation and/or poor posture can cause it to become dehydrated and shortened, or “restricted”.
Restrictions can pull, twist and squeeze muscles, nerves, blood vessels, organs and lymphatic vessels with an enormous amount of tensile strength. Undiagnosed fascial restrictions do not show up on many standard diagnostic tests such as X-rays and CAT scans, so it’s possible that people experiencing pain or limited mobility could often be dealing with undiagnosed restriction. Although fascia, now considered to be part of an organ system, has been known to scientists, it was greatly overlooked and neglected as an area of study. In most anatomical drawings, fascia is usually removed so the student can more easily see other structures.
As a result, curricula in health care fields didn’t pay much attention to how this miraculous tissue influences so many areas of health and disease. With the formation of the Fascia Research Congress in 2007, a new light is shining on fascia. Scientists and researchers worldwide meet biennially to share their latest discoveries with health care professionals and clinicians.
All myofascial release (MFR) therapy treatment methods are not the same. John F. Barnes, PT, has been working in the field of MFR for more than 40 years and is considered by many therapists to be the guru of this therapy. He has to date trained more 100,000 therapists, and much recent scientific research is now backing up what he has been teaching for all of those years. Barnes’ method of therapy uses gentle, not forceful, sustained pressure into fascial restrictions.
Initially, an elastic part of the fascia will stretch and sometimes be felt by the recipient, the therapist or both. For a real release to transpire, the sustained pressure must be held for three to five minutes or longer. The tight fascia not only stretches, but goes through a transitional phase where it liquefies like melting ice. The result is a release of the straightjacket hold around nerves and sensitive tissues. In addition, during this stage, the body produces certain interleukins which are anti-inflammatory.
A Barnes MFR therapist often begins a session by looking at the patient’s posture. Deviations observed are used as a guide for how to treat each individual. The goal is working toward a balanced stance. The origin of pain can lie in areas other than where it is felt. Lining up the structure of the body can at times ease pain without even working on the painful area, because softening a restriction can reduce or eliminate its clenching grip.
A JFB MFR therapist will most likely give the patient suggestions for self-treatment, because there are a lot of simple, but effective home therapies to release our own myofascial restrictions. Being aware of the major influence connective tissue has on our health can be key to choosing a lifestyle of wellness. Myofascial release can make a difference in the way we feel and move, as well as serve as an adjunct to prevention and treatment of disease. MFR can relieve tightness and pain and even help achieve optimal health by releasing restrictions around organs, lymphatic and blood vessels.
Janet Hardy, LMT, BCTMB, is a board-certified massage therapist and a JF Barnes expert level myofascial release therapist. Contact her at 850-231-9131, CaringTouchTherapy.net or Myofascial Release.com (search find a therapist).