Now that we have a clearer picture of what fascia is and it’s basic role within our body we get to the bigger questions. How does treating the fascial system differ from just working on musculature? Can fascia be trained to stay healthy like we do with our muscles? First we must remember that these two tissues are entwined in the body as a myofascial unit. Both treatment and training will seem similar but will have their own tweak to target the specific tissue.
To quickly refresh, fascia is the connective tissue system of the body. It aids in structure, force transmission and communication ensuring that our movement and body awareness works to the best of their abilities. It permeates our entire being, wrapping around and dividing our muscles, organs, and everything else like a second skin. From time to time this “second skin” becomes stuck to the musculature it binds and can limit movement and/or create pain. With one point of restriction another part will have to work harder to make up for it, which leads to other compensations being felt through other sections of the body. Performing self myofascial release will help to minimize adhesions but seeing a practitioner who can view the body as a whole and see the correlating issues works best alleviate all problems. During the process they can begin to implement exercise and make other recommendations to ensure that the myofascial system stays in check.
To release these tissues from adhering to each other space must be created. To do this the practitioner will start with the most superficial layer of fascia, find where the issues lie then “hook into the tissue” to create a lift in between the fascia and muscle beneath. Unlike different schools of massage there is no creams or oils being used. Instead the practitioner uses water to dampen their hands and allow for a better grip of the tissues. To just slide across the surface or to press hard into a particular area is not going to be effective when it comes to creating space and sliding ability between the muscle and fascia. To ensure that the entire area of focus is released and limit the force used, the practitioner will guide the client through a series of movements so that the two sliding components will better separate and remove any other adhesions that may be forming. The movement of the client allows them to have control over the speed and force used. If it is a deep layer the practitioner will seek to positively influence the structures above it instead of digging deeply into the client. While there are some areas that are unpleasant, freeing up the fascial system does not have to be an painful experience.
Movement is an important part of the treatment. A session is, as much, about relief as it is about education. Through teamwork with the practitioner, the client learns about the movements that they may have been incapable of before or performed with some degree of difficulty. People are usually surprised about the fluidity or range they have regained, even in something as simple as breathing or taking a step. Once a baseline is established and the worst of the adhesions are removed then training for the long term heal of the fascia can be implemented. It does not have to completely change a training program but can be added on as an accessory.Committing 10 to 15 extra minutes in a workout to the fascial system is all one really needs to make sure it works optimally. There are whole systems to training the myofascial and lines of Anatomy Trains which we will see in the next post along with the basics.