Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Myofascial?

Frequently asked question #3 is What is Myofascial Release and Why do you do it?

Let me give you the text bookish answer to the "What is it?" part of the question first:

Myofascial Release is a hands-on, soft tissue therapy that provides sustained pressure into fascial restrictions along with slow, gentle stretching to eliminate pain, restore motion, and provide lasting flexibility.  

Fascia (aka connective tissue) is a very densely woven fibrous sheet that surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord (think sausage casing- metaphor #1). 

It is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one structure that exists from head to foot without interruption. Each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, a wetsuit underneath the skin, so to speak (metaphor #2).

 In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and has the ability to stretch and move without restriction (Think of fruit (organs and muscles) suspended in a warm Jell-o mold- metaphor #3).

When we experience physical trauma, intensive exertion, chronic stress, or scarring, however, the fascia loses its pliability; it becomes tighter, harder, more restricted, and calcifies over time- becoming painful and stiff (kinda like clay- metaphor #4 or Patrick Swayze's acting skills - metaphor #5).

So why do you care what your sausage-y, jello-ish, wetsuit-like body is doing during a massage?

Massage Therapy can reverse the hardening, painful process, returning the soft tissues to their healthy, relaxed, flexible state. Myofascial Release massage therapy techniques aim to release connective tissue restrictions in the body, and to break up any muscular adhesions.  It helps to relieve chronic tension, increase the body's range of motion, improve posture and enhance the entire body by targeting specific problem areas.

Why do you want Myofascial Release? 

It's slow and gentle yet deeply effective. Unlike painful, pokey, deep tissue massage modalities like Neuromuscular therapy, for example, MFR is about slow heat and pressure over time to re-adjust the soft tissue on the body as a whole structure. MFR is a massage based therapy which means it addresses the SOFT tissues, not bones, but it can greatly benefit skeletal mobility. 

Time, heat and pressure can move mountains (metaphor #6).

Why do I do it? 

Clients frequently get impressive and predictable results from these techniques. It's different from the gliding, oily, slippery Swedish Relaxation norm (MFR uses little or no oil usually). I can incorporate stretching techniques from other modalities while still applying MFR ideas in my head. It is a very tangible, medical/physiological/anatomy based perspective- meaning I can see it, feel it, and explain it with easy metaphors and examples (as opposed to something like Reiki which is energetic and less mechanically explainable). It fits my personality with the non-pushy, patient, warm, gentle approach. 

My exact use of Myofascial Release as a modality and how I mix it with other techniques is unique, as is every therapist's massage on any given day. I'm not specifically a John F. Barnes guy or a CORE Myofascial guy, but I believe John Barnes and George Kousaleos are absolutely ground breaking with their work in this modality. I'm not officially certified in any way. 

What training I have in MFR came from Pete Whitridge, LMT. He's another amazing teacher, healer, and role model.

The moral of this story is that I always approach soft tissue issues from a MFR perspective first, then adjust to the client's needs from that starting place.


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