A simplistic view of fascia is this: “it is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place”. When I went to college over 20 years ago we did not even pay attention to fascia. During Dissection we hastily cut it out so we could see the important stuff which were the muscles, nerves, bones and blood vessels. Little did I know that I was ignoring the subject that would make the biggest difference in solving chronic pain.
Muscles may move the bones but if it was not for the fascia the shape of the body would not be held together. When fascia gets tight it can exert up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. This pressure on pain sensitive structures can produces headaches, chronic back pain, fibromyalgia, posture problems and restrict normal motion. In addition, fascia also has pain fibers within it and can be almost a sensitive as the skin.
Now that the importance of this structure is realized, lets look at the complexity of how it affects the body. This tough (think 2,000 pounds of pressure) tissue spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional webbing from head to toe, uninterrupted. The Fascia on the head and shoulder area is connected throughout the complex webbing structure to the fascia of the ankle and foot.
The fascial system is the container of fluid in the body. Trauma, thwarted inflammatory responses and surgeries can dehydrate the fluid of the fascial system. When the fascia gets dehydrated it can solidify to a point that it creates a crushing pressure on pain-sensitive structures causing pain, numbness, tingling and lack of motion.
Standard tests such as x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography etc, do not show fascial restrictions. It is suspected that there is a high percentage of people suffering with pain, tingling and lack of motion and even struggle to manage their posture may have significant fascial restrictions that go undiagnosed since there is not a standard test to detect them.
The three dimensional structure of the fascial system is unique and its viscoelastic qualities cause it to resist a suddenly applied force. It protects itself and the body with this resistance. However, this makes it more resistant to deep and more aggressive forms of soft tissue work. Truly effective manual fascial work is more on the gentle side. The drawback is that it can take a long time to allow the fascia to soften.
Another effective form of fascial release is through the use of dry needling. The practitioner can feel the compression and density of the tissues through the needle point. This allows for specific treatment in restricted areas. The use of a metal needle polarizes the tissues and allows them to lengthen. The exact mechanism of how this works is still being understood; however, the thick and dense tissues soften within seconds of the insertion of the needle.
Using a gentle form of myofascial release following dry needling is an ideal combination. The needling technique can soften some of the toughest and most restricted areas; however, it tends to work in a smaller area due to the pinpoint accuracy of the needle. The gentle myofascial release then allows the surrounding tissues to lengthen and expand and can address the tissue tension lines that can span longer distances in the body. For example, a restriction in in the left hip could offset the fascial system and cause pain in the right shoulder.
Treating the fascial system can be like trying to figure out a puzzle. Luckily I loved puzzles as a kid. These days I cannot find the time for them because I am too busy figuring out the puzzles in each of my clients bodies. It keeps me from getting bored because every fascial restriction can be unique to each person.
If you think your pain may be the result of a fascial restriction then reach out to me and let me help you solve the puzzle. It is one of my passions to solve these puzzles and I would love to help you with yours. You can reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.