As you approach a career in massage and bodywork, you may decide to specialize in one or more techniques-and the demand for information on myofascial release is growing exponentially.
Myofascial restrictions can produce enormous pressures on pain-sensitive structures, as well as exert tremendous tensile forces on the neuromuscular-skeletal systems. This pressure-approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch-can create the symptoms we have long been trying to eliminate. This knowledge frees us from trying to relieve conditions temporarily, and gives us the tools we need to find and eradicate the cause-and-effect relationship of symptoms for a permanent resolution to our clients' complex issues.
Anatomy and physiology of fascia
Fascia is a tough connective tissue that spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head to foot, without interruption. Fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ of the body, all the way down to the cellular level.
Malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, posture or inflammation can create a binding down of the fascia, resulting in abnormal pressure on nerves, muscles, bones or organs. This can create pain or malfunction throughout the body, sometimes with bizarre side effects and seemingly unrelated symptoms, not always following dermatomal zones.
It is thought that an extremely high percentage of people suffering from pain or lack of motion may have fascial problems; however, most go undiagnosed, as the importance of fascia is just now being recognized. Standard tests such as X-rays, myelograms, CAT scans and electromyography do not show fascial restrictions.
At the cellular level, fascia creates interstitial spaces and has important functions of support, protection, separation, cellular respiration, nutrition, elimination, metabolism, fluid and lymphatic flow. In other words, it is the immediate environment of every cell of the body. This means any trauma or malfunction of the fascia can set up an environment for poor cellular efficiency, necrosis, disease, pain and dysfunction throughout the body.
The importance of myofascial release
The central nervous system is surrounded by fascial tissue (dura mater), which attaches to the inside of the cranium, the foramen magnum and at the second sacral segment. Dysfunction in these tissues can have profound and widespread neurological effects.
Myofascial release is effective at addressing:
- Back pain
- Jaw pain
- Disc problems
- Sports injuries
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Neurological dysfunction
- Chronic pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Carpal tunnel
- Neck pain
It can also be used to address women's health problems, including:
- Pelvic-floor pain and dysfunction
- Urinary incontinence
- Mastectomy pain
- Painful intercourse
- Urinary urgency
- Painful scars
- Interstitial cystitis
- Menstrual problems
- Urinary frequency
- Problems related to breast implants and breast-reduction scars
- Episiotomy scars
It is important for myofascial release therapists to realize the body is a repository of information. The body can be used as a biofeedback system for the master therapist's finely trained, sensitive hands. It can then be used as a handle, or lever, to provide clients with access to their emotions and belief systems and allow for structural and biomechanical change.
Mastery means not only achieving a certain level of skill; it is also an attitude and being fully aware of what you are doing. The importance of touch is as an expression of acceptance, nourishment and a form of biofeedback to glean information from clients' mind-body awareness. Touch should be applied with focused awareness and conscious purpose. The focus should be fluid, moving from tight and narrow (logical, analytical thought) to open, feeling everything at once without thought or effort (intuition, insight).
As you grow your clientele, tell clients not to view the cause of their dysfunction as a defeat, but see it as a lesson. By looking for the benefits, they can see the dysfunction's value, learn from it and allow themselves to heal. Help them understand that one of the best lessons is they may not be able to change the circumstances of their life, but they can change their reaction to their circumstance; they can move from being passive, helpless recipients to active participants. This important change in perspective creates a partnership between you and your clients where you can help them help themselves.
Mastery is teaching through example. The master therapist is real, calm, nonjudgmental, intelligent, sensitive, strong yet flexible, supportive, compassionate, empathetic and joyful.