“What is fascial tissue and why is it important to work on?”
I’ve heard this question a lot in my 16-year career. Fascial tissue is a multidirectional fibrous membrane that gives form and shape to muscles. It is found throughout the body from your head to your toes covering nerves, bones, abdominal contents, and blood vessels. It is even found in the brain, where it helps to keep it together and safe in the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord – pretty neat!).
Depending on your history and lifestyle, fascia is prone to the same tightness issues as muscles. Fascia has a nerve supply, just like the rest of the body, and can therefore be painful. It is made up of multiple layers with fluid in between to allow smooth movement over structures. Activity level, posture, nutrition, hydration, and past surgical or traumatic experience, can cause the fascia to become restricted. This causes problems with range of motion (ROM), headaches, migraines, and digestive issues.
How to alleviate the discomfort associated with fascial restrictions?
Many things. Anything from simple exercises, stretching, drinking water, or changing food intake. Because it is a restriction Massage Therapy is a valuable way of treating it. Your Massage Therapist will take a health history and perform assessments to ensure that the restrictions or pain are not coming from an underlying issue. At this point, they will then go over what they feel will be the best approach to your treatment.
During treatment, affected tissues are usually manipulated without lotion, and after the application of heat. This ensures the best “grab” of tissues and enables the therapist to move them using techniques such as:
- Skin rolling
- Direct and indirect techniques (directly on or close to the affected area)
- Deeper techniques
- Movement therapy (some may think of this as an Active Release Technique)
Some of these techniques are applied amid a regular massage session as well, depending on what the therapist has assessed and feels is best for your treatment.
What to expect at the end of the session?
After the session has finished, the therapist may send you home with home care. This may be as simple as drinking water. Or they may suggest stretches, exercises, yoga poses, heat applications, as well as some techniques to try on yourself in between treatments. Be mindful of how you are responding to the treatment because this will give your therapist valuable feedback. Some short term residual discomfort is normal. However, you should notice an increase in movement, ease of breathing, that pesky headache subsides or has gone completely. Sleep should be more comfortable and easier to obtain or maintain.
Like all modalities of treatment, it may not produce results immediately. Some areas may require a couple of treatments to be effective. Let your therapist know of all the after-effects of treatment. They may be able to modify future treatment approaches.
If you are ready to start looking at fascial release techniques, let your therapist know. They will try their best to answer any questions you may have. No question is a bad one, and they will want to ensure you have the best and current information to make an informed choice.