Originally published: Positive Health Online
My journey with myofascial release started in 2009, when I discovered this amazing art, I studied intensively in the US and the UK, and immediately integrated these hands on techniques into my massage practice. I witnessed immediate results, alleviating physical injuries in a much more effective way, with less stress on my body. My word of mouth referrals doubled! But for me, the most amazing part of this practice was that I could effectively access the emotional component of injury through hands on body work. At the time this felt revolutionary.
There is an amazing New York psychologist who specialises in trauma work called Peter Levine; he states that: “Until we understand that traumatic symptoms are physiological as well as psychological, we will be woefully inadequate in our attempts to heal them.” I feel that this is a major breakthrough, and that the importance of our work as bodywork therapists is really being acknowledged: In my clinic; I have had patients say to me “I’ve done 15yrs of talk therapy, but I know “it’s” stuck in my body”. They don’t really say what “it” is, but I would call it the physical manifestation of trauma, and this is precisely what can be effectively addressed through myofascial release.
Cross Hand Release
How do myofascial release techniques differ from the more tradition bodywork techniques? During traditional massage therapies the therapist moves their hands over the still tissues of the client’s body; manipulating and mobilizing, muscles, fascia and connective tissue; flushing through, lengthening, re-aligning and encouraging the blood supply, amongst other things. Whereas during myofascial release the therapist hands are completely still and relaxed, contouring the body, quietly and gently palpating and waiting for the release to happen beneath our hands. If we, the therapists are quiet and still in body and mind, we are able to feel beneath our hands and eventually beyond our hands. It is this fine-tuned palpation, being sensitive, present and grounded that makes a great MFR therapist. Feeling beneath our hands we are able to palpate when a restriction is fully released, becoming aware of the changes in the tissues as well as the increased fluid flow. Palpating beyond our hands, we are able to feel for further restrictions within the body, which may need releasing. If during treatment, the therapist is truly grounded and encourages the patient to really feel into their body; then often as the physical release takes place and the restrictions within the tissues melt away, an emotional release or change takes place. An emotional release may be extremely subtle, just a fleeting memory washing over the patient; or it could be deeply profound. It is common for a patient to re-experience events that have been stored in the body for many years, even those from the subconscious. All experiences are stored within the physical body from; surgeries, to being born or giving birth, car crashes, falls or sporting injuries. When an emotional release takes place, therapist must be able to hold the space to facilitate this change. Often there is a palpable change in energy in the room as a release takes place. To truly allow the physical and emotional change to take place and not shut down a patient, makes for deeply rewarding work, and benefits the patient enormously, as they let go of what no longer serves them.
So why the wait? To truly release the fascia we need to wait for a minimum of 3 minutes and often more. Fascia is made up of 3 main substances:
- Ground substance (a viscous gel like substance).
In order to truly release the fascia we must wait firstly for the elastin component to release and then the collagen (the denser, more fibrous component) to release, this takes a minimum of 3 minutes and often much longer to truly release. It appears that emotion is stored within the physical body, so as the tissues are released, the emotion trapped within the tissue is mobilised, and can be resolved.
Once we have fully released the collagenous component more fluid flow is available, which is essential to health – we are after all, mostly water! Fluid is the carrier of life. When fascia is injured it becomes bound down and de-hydrated; and more collagenous fibres are laid along the lines of tension imposed upon it. It is therefore essential to wait and allow the collagenous to fully release, especially when working injured tissues (when the wait time will be even longer). It is this wait time that make the techniques so invaluable and different from more traditional forms of bodywork. Fascia is also considered to be a fluid loving system, yet when injured and bound down it become de-hydrated, so our aim is to restore it to its fluid loving state – reducing pain, restrictions and inflammation.
It is truly a privilege to work with patients to unravel and alleviate long held emotional and physical holding patterns. What I love about my work, is that my client base is hugely diverse; from women who have suffered difficult or traumatic births, who have scarring from episiotomy’s or C-sections. Patients who have undergone surgery, frequently for cancer or complicated breaks and reconstruction. I have worked effectively with people who have suffered domestic violence and abuse. I have alleviated Tinnitus and Trigeminal Neuralgia. As well as enhancing the performance of many sports people and musicians who suffer from Repetitive Strain type injuries. With all these clients I address the physical component of injury and the emotional component which is intertwined will dissipate. Although I have been really challenged through my work, I feel we attract what we are able to deal with.
Here is a small piece from a patient of mine, which indicates the journey that the patient and the therapist undertake together to unravel physical as well as emotional issues.
Leg pull close-up
“…I became aware of a fairly constant rumbling pain in my left knee and shin and periodic sharp shooting pains up from my toes that seemed not to be going away. My friend advised myofascial release, about which I had never heard, but after some researching I arranged to meet up with Emma Gilmore early in 2014. I have seen her pretty much every three weeks since then and, yes, the treatment has – bit by bit – made an enormous difference to my leg and to my general well-being. Twelve years ago I dug up a whole garden, but before I met Emma I had got to the point where I didn’t have the flexibility or the inclination to bend or reach over to pull up even a weed – but now, I will attack and tidy a bed of shrubs and flowers and even undertake pruning. Who knows what tomorrow will bring!
“In the first session, pressure was mainly applied to parts of my bad leg, but it was also put on parts of the other leg which sometimes led to responses (twitches, tingling) in the first leg. Then Emma began to wonder if the base of my back had any connection with the pains in my leg – I have had recurring back pain for twenty years – so she worked on that and there were times, when to my amazement the pressure on my back triggered the profound shooting pains up from my toes, so something was certainly happening! My back has definitely improved as a result of her work there. By now in my treatment journey, the pain and discomfort in my left leg had all but disappeared but we had become aware that there was a tendency for my ankles and feet to get puffy, particularly in the right leg. By now Emma was working on the scar of my colon cancer operation. In the operation I had had many lymph nodes removed which could be affecting the leg and the causing the oedema. In recent treatment sessions, when she has been putting pressure on my leg – note, my leg – I can have quite strong twinges underneath my scar on my stomach: nowhere else, just underneath my scar. And this is where we have got to so far – I am expecting, that the work on my scar will help my oedema, that it will assist in strengthening both legs and that it will help my battered colon, not to mention my body as a whole. It is not the end of the journey for me by any means.” JA
Teaching myofascial release
As well as running a busy clinic and treating patients, I also teach myofascial release techniques at School of Bodywork. We are unique in the way we teach myofascial release; we ensure that you know how to help release injury on an emotional as well as a physical level. We teach you how to facilitate release in a safe and effective way, without re-traumatising the patient. We also teach you how to hold the space during treatment.
At School of Bodywork we teach an advanced Myofascial Release Diploma; this is a modular courses, you can work through the modules at a pace to suit you. Even from the foundation level you will have an amazing set of skills to integrate into and enhance your work. Here are the Full Course details.