Myofascial Release: The Web That Surrounds Us
Gateway Massages, Covent Garden, London; Wednesday 17th December 2014
Change is constant in all things and never more so than in the world of massage. There is constant research, symposia, conferences, workshops and training – all striving to improve techniques and the power of the therapists touch to improve outcomes for clients who often come to us in pain, discomfort, with limited range of movement or in need of emotional and physical support. Thus I was very excited to be a Myofasical Release course and to now be able to offer this amazing technique to all my clients.
More recent medical research in massage has increasingly focussed upon the role of fascia and myofascia (fascia surrounding muscle) – the connective tissue that surrounds and penetrates everything in the body (veins, arteries, muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs) and helps to both keep it in place and to move. As in the picture to the right and in the video attached fascia resemble the silken threads of a web – yet a body web which is stunning in its appearance and its ability to stretch, move and change in order to act as a shock absorber, protection and support to the internal elements of the body.
In the past therapists have focussed upon using deep pressures to the muscles and their adhesions ‘knots’, without considering that all muscles are surrounded by fascia in the first instance and that inflammation, adhesions and difficulty in movement is also affecting fascia. Admittedly, the average person may not want to read all the medical research but a basic understanding can really help a client to understand what is going on in their body.
Fascia is composed of ground substance (a type of shock absorber), elastin (to give it elasticity) and collagen (to give it strength). The more we move and stretch the more elastin for elasticity the fascia lays down and the more flexible we become (hence the flexibility of an acrobat or gymnast, or increased flexibility from the continued practice of yoga or pilates), but the less movement the more collagen is created. Thus the more sedentary we are, the more restricted we can become. Any kind of physical or emotional trauma – an accident, surgery, injury, poor posture or repetitive movement which leads to less movement, results in the fascia becoming restricted, congested, contracted and inhibiting movement further – in a potentially ever-decreasing circle where a client can become less and less mobile. Understanding that this web of fascia is literally all around the body therapists are also realizing that areas of limited mobility can have far reaching effects around the body. Stiffness in one area can easily have an effect on another far removed. Long gone are the days when a ‘frozen shoulder’ was thought to affect the shoulder only and the treatment be confined to that area alone.
What does this mean for clients? Well fortunately research has also shown ways to release these constrictions with two different methods which I am happy to offer for clients, either for a whole or part treatment before massage. Having experienced Myofascial Release myself I can honestly say that it can have profound and highly effective results.
Direct release – this can be a more intense form of release, using techniques of skin rolling, and quick movements to break down the myofascial restrictions and constrictions by releasing the elastin components of the fascia. It is often practiced in osteopathy and physiotherapy and can bring instantaneous relief.
Indirect release – this is a very gentle and often soothing form of release, in which the therapist uses very slow and careful forms of stretching and pressures over much longer periods of time to also release the collagen components of the myofasical constrictions. This can result in much longer term results and is suitable for most clients, including those who are pregnant or require very safe and gentle techniques.