We hear a lot about fascia these days but most people don’t even know what it is.
First, Let’s Talk About Fascia
Fascia is the connective tissue in the body that encapsulates every muscle and organ gently holding it in place. It is very flexible and allows for a tremendous amount of give when it comes to the many ways we move and sometimes injure our bodies.
If you’ve ever cleaned or skinned chicken there is a translucent, slimy film that slides along the surface of the meat that can be peeled off. This is fascia.
Fascia is what allows us to eat an enormous meal that weighs five or six pounds without the weight of that food impinging on the function of our lower organs like the intestines or bladder.
It’s what allows a woman to grow an enormous load in her abdomen, otherwise known as a new human being, without dysfunctionally crushing all the organs around it.
If you’ve ever known anyone who has had to have exploratory intestinal surgery, you know that there is a crippling amount of pain involved in the recovery because all the fascia of the intestines was broken up during surgery and the weight of the intestines themselves impinge on the natural and necessary flow of fluids and gases through these ducts which causes tremendous pain and discomfort until those fascial layers can reconstitute and support the organ properly.
In short, the fascia is the pantyhose stocking of the body that supports and lifts while enabling an impressive range of motion. When the fascia is not moving properly it, in turn, impinges on the ability of the muscle to enjoy a full range of motion.
So what is myofascial release then? The prefix myo- means muscle so myofascial means the fascia surrounding the muscles.
Over time fascia can lose its elasticity as adhesions accumulate. These adhesions can be caused by dehydration, toxins in our diet or environment, waste byproducts of the body and/or a sedentary lifestyle.
Myofascial release is the working of the fascial plains in the body to break up these adhesions and promote regenerative healing to the fascia. They call it myofascial release but I’m going to level with you right quick; the term “release” is just a euphemism for tearing.
When long hair becomes tangled and you are brushing it out there’s a certain degree of tearing of the hair fibers that naturally occurs. Similarly, when you are working out the fascial layers of the body there is a degree of tearing that will happen. This can sometimes cause superficial bruising which is perfectly normal. Releasing or tearing the fascia promotes blood flow and healing to an otherwise stagnant area.
It may not be a very pleasurable experience (my clients have often described it as an intense burning sensation) but it is very effective in restoring range of motion and stimulating the natural healing processes of the body.