It is now understood that “80% of our body is fascia and that muscle contraction is caused by fascia” Tom Meyers.
Once fascia has been injured it can “harden, de-hydrated and thicken” Leon Chaitow, Helene Langevin & Robert Schleip. “Chronic mechanical stress through an area results in increased laying down of collagen fibre and decreased hydration of the ….ground substance, which result in decreased nourishment of certain cells” Meyers. In order to restore function, reduce pain and improve posture and alignment the fascia will need to be released and restored to health. Which will in turn allow cellular nourishment in areas of previous restriction.
So how do we release the fascia? One of the most effect forms of therapy to release the fascia is myofascial release. When we treat fascia, we need to always consider the three dimensionality of it and that one restriction can lead to another as we compensate in space.
The secret to truly allow the release of the collagen is the wait time (explained in Blog 3. How to treat a myofascial restriction and Blog 4. Why the wait?). Whilst myofascial release techniques can be divided into two categories: direct and indirect techniques, both have a time component to be truly effective.
Direct techniques: Such as the Iliacus release illustrated below are more akin to the traditional Rolfing techniques and they work to allow the collagenous component to release. This work is more mechanical and do not always allow for the emotional holding pattern to resolve. Do not use these techniques unless fully trained and insured.
Indirect techniques: Such as the cross hand release (explained in Blog 3. How to treat a myofascial restriction) are gentle both on the therapists body and on the fascia. These techniques allow the collagenous component of fascia to release and re-align and therefore allow for re-hydration. This improves function as well as posture and often reduces pain. These techniques are profoundly effective. When the therapist is grounded and holds the space the patient feels safe; this skill along with the time component of the indirect techniques not only allows the fascial restriction to resolve but also allows for the emotional component (if there is one) to be brought to the surface and to be processed.
Many therapists are now adding Fascial Release techniques as a great tool, with which to help their patients. Massage therapists, Movement therapists, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors and sports therapists are training in Fascial Release.
What else works? There are components of many other therapies that work on the fascia, from Acupuncture, to Bowen to Craniosacral therapy. In my varied life as a therapist I have found that craniosacral therapy through its incredibly gentle, supportive hands-on work allows deep, profound release of the body tissues (including the fascia) and restrictions held within the body. The skilled therapist can facilitate change on a deep level.
Yin yoga also facilities change in the fascia. Yin yoga is a slow-paced style of yoga with postures, or asanas, that are held for longer periods of time. For beginners, the posture may be held from 45 seconds to two minutes; more advanced practitioners may stay in one asana for five minutes or more. Again the wait time of these postures (asanas) allows for the fascia to release and also allows for the emotional component to resolve.
What all of these techniques have in common is that the patient needs to be in their body and really accessing the felt sense, feeling the change in the body tissues.
It is important to note, that if the patient is not in their body, then lasting change cannot take place. More about avoidance and patients leaving the body in a later blog.