Myofascial therapy is the name of a variety of techniques used to manipulate the fascial and muscular systems of the body. Synergetic® myofascial therapy is my humble take on the work of our myofascial pioneers. This type of bodywork greatly improves structural alignment and is useful in relieving chronic muscular pain. Deep tissue applications with and without movement, myofascial lengthening, and myofascial techniques are utilized in this multi-faceted approach to healing physical and emotional wounds.
What Is Fascia?
Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve artery and vein as well as all our internal organs, including the brain and spinal cord. It is a system of an interconnected web without separate coverings that exists from head to foot without interruption – much like the yarn in a sweater. Restrictions in fascia, caused by injuries, stress, inflammation, trauma and poor posture can spread to other places in the body, like a pull in a sweater.
Fascia was thought of as a packing material with no important use other than that. Ostheopaths, and others in the USA like Ida Rolf 1962, Little, 1969, Taylor 1958, brought light onto the fact that fascia had much more important function in the body’s structural support. Fascia is involved in all of the body’s basic processes such as structure, metabolism and function. Fascia is in practicum not a separate structure from muscles and bones, but in fact closely related. If we removed fascia the muscles would be jelly like, and joints could simply not function without the fascial support.
The fascia is an elastic and gluey substance that separates, divides and connects the connective tissue network to the rest of the body. (Ingber 2008, Myers 2009) The fascia supports not only the muscles and the osseous tissue, but also the skin, ligaments, tendons, neural structures, lymph and blood in a symbiotic relationship. (Schleip 2006, Ingber 2008, Solomonow 2009).
When the fascia is under stress, which can be caused be mechanical overuse, immobility, or a shortened state, the collagen and matrix becomes disorganized. This will result in fibrotic tissue, fascial thickening (Which Langevin 2009 described as ‘densification’) and adhesions where the tissue can bind to osseous structures.
Fascia also plays an important role in the support of the body’s structure. The bones are like tent poles, and the fascia can be thought of as the guide wires that keep the right amount of tension, so that the tent can stay upright and the body in balance.
Release of myofascial restrictions can affect other body organs through a release of tension in the whole fascial system. –Carol Manheim
Normal fascia is in a relaxed and wavy state. When there is tension in the fascia, it starts to lose its pliability, becomes tight, and is a source of tension for the rest of the body. The restrictions can cause intense pain and limited ROM by limiting flexibility, stability, and the sense of a “space freedom” state in the body.
The History of Myofascial Therapy
German physiotherapist Elizabeth Dicke in the 1920’s developed connective tissue massage (bindegewebs massage) with superficial lengthening of the myofascia. In 1920, an Ostheopath named William Neidner developed a system called fascial twist, one of the pioneering techniques in myofascial work. In the 1950’s-1970’s, Dr. Ida Rolf developed structural integration, a holistic system of soft tissue manipulation and movement education with the goal of balancing the body in the gravitational field. Rolf discovered that she could change the body’s posture and structure in a remarkable way, by manipulating the myofascial system.
Fascial work is also done by Heller work practitioners, Rolf Guild practitioners, KMI or Kinesis by Tom Myers Rolfer™, Rolf Institute, Soma, IPSB Structural Integration, Core Structural Integration among many other myofascial bodyworkers.
In 2006, Thomas Findley MD-PhD co director of research at the VA medical center in East Orange, NJ organized the Fascia research Congress at Harvard Medical School. Scientists researching connective tissue and deep tissue massage therapists met at the first convention of its sort. Findley’s motivation was to bring together deep tissue therapists that have the practical experience with scientists having the laboratory knowledge. He said that deep tissue therapists can see results in their clients, but cannot scientifically prove why it works, and the scientists want to see clinical applications of their work.
Gil Headley is doing exciting practical research on fascia in laboratory with cadaver tissue. This exciting field of bodywork is growing rapidly and might change the way people think of massage and bodywork in how it is traditionally done in the west.
A unique quality of connective tissue is its ability to be elongated. Working the fascia requires different skills than working the muscles. When the connective tissue receives the correct amount of tension it immediately changes shape from a solid state to a gel state. To lengthen the fascia we have to make contact in less than 45 degrees. We start the work at the superficial fascial layer, and will only proceed to the deeper layers when the tissue has released. Forcing our way through resistant tissue will not get desired results. The myofascial therapist will us a “scouping”/lifting action in the application of the myofascial stroke, in combination with active or passive client movements.
Without the lengthening of the fascia, we cannot release restrictions in the fascia. To be able to apply effective deep tissue strokes to affect the deeper muscles, the fascia must be addressed first. We sometimes also use deep cross fiber friction and positional release work to access deeper muscles, once we have released the superficial. We often work in between muscles, separating the muscle tissue from fascia and bone. Working this way improves functional movement in a profound way.
The connective tissue therapist will lean a significant amount of body weight into the client. In this way the pressure feels broad and less painful to the client, and also makes the treatment less stressful on the therapist’s body by utilizing gravity. The therapist will keep this line of alignment in his/her own body and move through the massage stroke, from the core of his/her body. This work has to be done at a slow pace with no or little lotion to be effective in releasing taut fascia. Take your time, slow down, and have fun with it!
Synergetic® Myofascial Therapy™
Synergetic® myofascial therapy™ is a deep tissue bodywork. This work is very results oriented in nature. We work slowly, never forcing, listening to and communicating with the tissue in order to experience the “melt” of the fascia. The client has to participate in this work for it to be useful. We never just push on the tissue without a movement component in our application.
I have found that clients really get this work. When they stand up after a session they can feel the changes in their bodies. This type of work can give clients a feeling of openness and lightness in the body. Functional movement and a more grounded stance, feeling all parts of their feet touch the floor is common. I have also noticed that this work “holds” for longer periods of time than other bodywork that I have experienced. It’s the only work I have found that dramatically affects a positive change in posture. –Written by Magnus Eklund, LMT 144
Ida P Rolf – Ida Rolf talks about Rolfing™ and physical reality
Leon Chaitow –The Explosion of Fascial Research
Cantu et al 1992