Pssst. Insider tip.
I want to share with you a little trade secret that I’ve learned over the years. When I work on a client who experiences chronic pain, such as a neck spasm or a bad lower back, I don’t attack that pain with deep tissue work. Most folks come in and point to an area that is aching, and deeply embedded are a series of trigger points. They then ask me to “dig it out”. While that is one way to go about it, I have found through experience that it is not the whole answer to ridding them of that pain permanently.
That’s because the secret lies in the fascial system of the body.
What is fascia? How does one go about even pronouncing that word? Fascia, or FAAAAAAH-SHAH (totally formal phonetic spelling, right?) is a thin sheet of fibrous tissue that surrounds and encloses a muscle or other organ. What that description does not tell you is that, it is continuous. It has no beginning and no end. It encloses EVERY organ, muscle, nerve, IN YOUR ENTIRE BODY! My meat-eaters (holla), if you ever have split apart chicken breast, it is the thin spiderweb looking material between the breasts.
Much like a sweater, if there is a bunching in the material somewhere in the body, it effects the whole unit, twisting and morphing it into imbalance.
Imagine for a minute, you’ve had surgery. When we cut into that delicate fascia, it turns
from a flowy version of itself, to its evil step-fascia that is thick, sticky, and twisty……….scar tissue. That scar tissue is now adhering to the surrounding tissue, pulling it towards it like a black hole. If we walk around like that without finding that restriction within the fascia, eventually the body compensates with postural misalignments. This creates systemic muscular tension in random parts of the body, AKA, Myofascial Pain.
That is where we begin the journey to healing the body of chronic Myofascial Pain. To heal it, we must first understand what Myofascial Pain Syndrome truly is.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a tricky one to diagnose because we cannot test for with normal medical testing. It is, for lack of formality and brevity sake, a person with a boatload of Trigger Points.
THIS GUY BELOW
Those yellow dots represent areas within the muscle system that are in chronic contraction, aka Trigger Points. Those contracted areas actually decrease blood flow to the muscle itself, so waste materials cannot flow out, and healthy blood cells cannot come in. The buildup of toxins, such as lactic acid, lead to muscular pain. Lack of formal scientific testing makes this syndrome subjective, which is where I come in. I love me some subjectivity!
Since each person is an individual, working with the fascial system isn’t limited by protocol. In the place of deep tissue work and Trigger Point Therapy, I use a method developed by a now pretty famous Physical Therapist named John Barnes called Myofascial Release.
In his description, John States that “Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.)”
That is a super sciency way to validate them when my clients say I’m in “a ton of pain.” I can now say, “Dude, you totally ARE!” Badump…ching!
But seriously, when the fascia buckles down on a structure because it is under so much tension from being pulled in the direction of scar tissue, it is my job to then go and find that restriction and release it. Through gently applied sustained pressure, the fascial system is able to stretch out and those restrictions release, restoring mobility and function to the area.
Using a series of postural assessments and palpations, I can begin the search and release journey. However, no two people are alike. Much like their personal life, everyone’s fascia tells a different story. With injuries, different surgeries, different traumas, your body can tell the tall tale of the years you’ve put on it thus far. This is why this type of pain is hard to treat with prescriptions, further surgeries, or even your typical Massage Therapy. It also means that this fascial work can bring along with it the emotional components of all of those years.
Releasing a specific restriction, especially one that has been plaguing a client with pain for months or years, can also release the emotional memory of that trauma. This is where this work goes above and beyond when it comes to helping heal the body.
One client of mine had chronic tension headaches that triggered recurrent migraines. Typically, to target this, we work in the muscles of the neck, shoulders, head, face, and back with regular bodywork. Maybe we’ll release all the points, or maybe we will need 5-6 sessions. The problem is, it starts small, but then you drive home, tense your shoulders, make dinner, work at your computer, you continue with life recreating your recurring problem over and over. Even with perfect posture, your fascia is still restricting your structure as you sit.
Through gentle fascial stretching of the head, my client began to have a sudden emotional release. As the tears poured out, she was awash with memories of her dog, who had been her first “baby”. Her chronic headaches were a direct physical response to her sadness, anxiety, and stress over the tough decision months before to put her beloved dog down. She hadn’t been able to process that and grieve because she was in a stressful, overly busy time in life and had to suppress her own reaction to “be strong” for her family. By releasing the associated emotion, the fascial restrictions around her skull muscles released almost immediately, and her chronic headaches dramatically changed.
Headaches are not the only thing that Myofascial Release can help. Check out the HUGE list here:———>whoa, that’s a huge list.
The magic of this modality is that we create a safe space for you to release your pain. Since feedback is encouraged, this type of work can help increase your own personal body awareness.
Finding a Myofascial Release Specialist is as easy as clicking this link. Simply search for your area, and it’ll give you a list of who is certified in this modality. After all, what in the heck is there to lose…other than your chronic pain?
Kristy is a mother of two, Massage Therapist, and proponent of total body healing in Virginia.