What is Fascia?
Fascia is a three-dimensional web that permeates the whole body. The best way to envision the expanse of the fascial system is to think of it as a layer of connective tissue (similar to a tendon or ligament) that starts with the top layer directly below the skin, and extends to two deeper layers.
When the fascia is in its normal healthy state it is a relaxed and supple web - like the weave in a loose-knit sweater. When it is restricted, it is more rigid and less pliable, and can create pulls, tensions, and pressure as great as 2,000 pounds per square inch. The fascia is a continuous system, running from the bottom of the feet through the top of the head and has three layers:
- Superficial fascia, which lies directly below the skin. It stores fat and water, allows nerves to run through it, and allows muscle to move the skin.
- Deep fascia, which surrounds and infuses with muscle, bone, nerves, and blood vessels to the cellular level.
- Deepest fascia, which sits within the dura of cranial sacral system.
Fascia restrictions can occur within any or all of the layers.
Myofascial release (MFR) therapy focuses on releasing muscular shortness and tightness. There are a number of conditions and symptoms that myofascial release therapy addresses.
Many patients seek myofascial treatment after losing flexibility or function following an injury or if experiencing ongoing back, shoulder, hip, or virtually pain in any area containing soft tissue.
Other conditions treated by myofascial release therapy include Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, or possibly fibromyalgia or migraine headaches. Patient symptoms usually include:
- Tightness of the tissues that restricts motion or pulls the body out of alignment, causing individuals to favor and overuse one hip or shoulder, for example
- A sense of excessive pressure on muscles or joints that produces pain
- Pain in any part or parts of the body, including headache or back pain
Myofascial release is a soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle immobility and pain that release tension in the fascia due to trauma, posture, or inflammation. Connective tissues called fascia surround the muscles, bones, nerves, and organs of the body. Points of restriction in the fascia can place a great deal of pressure on nerves and muscles causing chronic pain.
Practitioners of myofascial release employ long stretching strokes to balance tissue and muscle mechanics and improve joint range of motion in order to relieve pain. Fascial strains can slowly tighten, causing the body to lose its physiologic adaptive capacity. Over time, the tightness spreads like a pull in a sweater. Flexibility of movement is lost, setting the body up for more trauma, pain and limitation of movement. The goal is to remove fascial restrictions and restore the body's equilibrium.
Myofascial therapy relieves soft tissue restrictions that cause pain. Some causes of chronic myofascial pain or low back pain are easier to diagnose than others: trauma (suchas a car accident or fall), cumulative posture misalignment or mechanical deficits, a compressed nerve from a herniated disc, or inflammatory conditions.
When pain is caused by myofascial tightness within the fascial system (the web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body and surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve blood vessel, and organ to the cellular level) the diagnosis is more difficult, as fascia restrictions do not show up on MRI scans or X-rays. Yet, those restrictions can play a significant role in creating pain and malfunction in the structure of the spine, extremities and organs.