Fascia is the connective tissue system which creates a continuous
three-dimensional web of support throughout body. It is surrounding and infused into all parts of
the body including skin, muscles, bone, blood and lymph vessels, nerves, brain and internal
organs. Fascia is what surrounds every cell giving the body its form. Three components make up
fascial tissue: collagen fibers which provide tensile strength, elastin fibers which provide
flexibility, and ground substance which fills the space between the collagen and elastin
Fascial restrictions are caused by trauma, surgery, repetitive motions,
prolonged positioning, and thwarted inflammatory responses - essentially everyone has some level
of restrictions in their fascia. Due to the fact the fascia is one continuous system we can
compensate for restrictions up to a certain point. Over time the restrictions begin to layer up
like an onion, the more layers that are present the less give there is in the system. Eventually
we can no longer compensate and begin to experience the effects of a "fascial straight jacket"
that can cause up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. A healthy fascial system should be
soft and pliable whereas a restricted system begins to solidify and the tissue dehydrates. A
restriction in the fascial system can be thought of as similar to a pull in a sweater: because the
fascia is continuous the restrictions can have far reaching effects.
Fascial restrictions can not be seen on any current diagnostic tests such
as X-ray, MRI, CT scan or blood test. Due to this fact many patients whose symptoms are caused by
fascia are left undiagnosed or merely treated symptomatically, never getting to the true cause.
Restrictions can be seen as change in posture, tight fascia can pull the bones out of optimal
alignment. A skilled therapist can also locate areas of restrictions with her hands, feeling for
areas on the body that are hard or tender.
Symptoms of fascial restrictions can range from minor to debilitating.
Restrictions can pull the bones out of alignment creating postural changes and pain. When the
restrictions are throughout the muscles they can cause tightness, reduced flexibility, and muscle
weakness. Blood vessels and nerves run through the fascia and can become entrapped causing
decreased circulation, pain, or numbness and tingling.
Myofascial release works by the therapist using her hands and sometimes
elbow to apply sustained pressure into the areas of fascial restriction. The therapist finds the
barrier and waits for the tissue to soften. It takes a minimum of five minutes for the collagen
component of the tissue to soften, anything less than that is only addressing the elastin
component of the fascia and results will be temporary. Opening the collagen of the fascia allows
the tissue to rehydrate leading to more permanent results. Many techniques are held for much
longer than five minutes to release many layers of the fascia. The fascial restrictions are like
layers of an onion, after a release occurs the therapists hand can then go deeper to the next
layer of tightness. The alignment of the pelvis is a key component to this work and addressed
with all patients regardless of their diagnosis. The pelvis is the body's foundation and if it is
rotated the abnormal forces can create additional restrictions throughout the body.
Myofascial release is a whole body approach. Many times the area of pain or
symptoms is not the true cause of the problem. Other forms of treatment address the symptoms
superficially with medication or other modalities but the true cause is never addressed. The
fascia is one continuous structure so areas of restrictions can cause problems throughout the
body. The goal is to open areas of restrictions so the body can return to its natural state of
"Find the pain, look elsewhere for the cause." -John F. Barnes