What is Fascia?
Fascia is a tough connective tissue that spreads three dimensionally, throughout the entire body, from head to toe, without interruption. It surrounds and connects everything in the body; muscles, nerves, blood vessels, organs and bones, down to the cellular level. It is made of elastin, collagen and an extracellular matrix, or ground substance and when healthy provides shock absorption and is the main messaging system of our bodies. Trauma, inflammation, surgery, or poor posture can create restrictions in the fascia, which, over time, result in excessive pressure on these pain-sensitive structures. Since many of today's standardized tests like CAT scans, X-rays, electromyography, MRIs, etc, don't show fascial restrictions, many people suffering from pain and lack of motion may be having fascial problems, but, most go undiagnosed.
Restrictions cause tissues to dehydrate, solidify, become brittle and easy to tear. If the ground substance of fascia has solidified, then all of the nutrition, fluid, oxygen, biochemistry, hormones, information and energy that are needed by our cells cannot be absorbed. Nor can the cells excrete toxins and waste products to be transported into the lymphatic system, so these may stay trapped in the cells essentially poisoning the cells.
The makeup of the fascial system causes it to resist a suddenly applied force which explains why more aggressive forms of therapy only produce temporary results or aren't effective at all.
What is John F. Barnes Myofascial Release?
John F. Barnes form of Myofascial Release therapy is a safe and highly effective manual therapy that involves applying a slow stretch into the fascial network. It can provide amazing results such as decreasing pain and increasing range of motion. It can help with adhesions, 'feeling stuck', back pain, fatigue, jaw pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries, and postural alignment issues like scoliosis, etc.
Gentle, sustained pressure is applied into an area of restriction. This is done without sliding on the skin, therefore no oil or lotion is used during these sessions. The hold must be maintained at least 90-120 seconds in order for the collagen component of the connective tissue to begin releasing. Sustained pressure for 3-5 minutes or more for each restriction allows the solidified tissues to soften and begin rehydrating. Waiting for this change to occur is key to producing a lasting result.
Fascia is a tough connective tissue that runs throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head-to-feet without interruption. This system profoundly influences all other structures and systems of the body. Fascia surrounds and infuses every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and holds organs in place. Therefore, malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, inflammation, poor posture, repetitive stress, or surgery, etc., can create a binding down or tightening of the fascia. This results in abnormal pressure on pain-sensitive structures causing discomfort and/or limited motion. Sometimes these painful or limiting effects (symptoms) are seemingly unrelated to the original injury area or condition. So, it is important to look at the body as a whole. When the tissues have been restricted or tightened for too long, they will become dehydrated and solidified. This is why it is important to hold the release long enough for fluids to return to the tissues.
In preparing for a myofascial session, women should wear either a 2 piece bathing suit or loose fitting elastic waist shorts and a sport style bra top. Men should wear loose fitting elastic waist shorts or bathing trunks. Please do not use any lotion after showering the day of the session. The therapist's hands need to be able to connect or grip the skin, without sliding, in order to be effective. Quieting ourselves, tuning in and keeping the awareness in the body during a session and providing feedback on feelings or sensations can boost the effectiveness of the session.
For more information visit www.myofascialrelease.com and read the articles written by John F. Barnes.
Kathryn Hollars is trained by John F. Barnes PT, who developed this therapy.