Myofascial Release for Dummies

So there’s a lot more talk in the fitness and wellness industries about myofascial release these days which I guess is a good thing in some ways but not so good in others. It seems like everyone who does body work claims to also do myofascial release and that’s not exactly accurate. There are also a bunch of other techniques that involve the use of scary implements that claim to “treat” the fascia but again, that’s not exactly accurate either. I’d like to take this opportunity to explain what exactly fascia is and its function in the body and dispel some myths about fascial work (or myofascial release).

Fascia is often described as connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs in the body. While this description is true, it provides only a very basic idea of the function of this important tissue. Fascia is a three dimensional web of tiny tubes filled with a gel-like substance that surrounds and connects every cell in the body. That’s right, every cell! So it affects how all of our cells function, which means it also affects how all of our muscles, joints and organs function (or don’t function as the case may be.) Think of fascia as a fibre optic network that transmits information (energy) to all the systems of the body because that is essentially what it does through the fluid inside the tiny tubes.

Problems (illness, disease, pain, etc) arise when the fascia becomes tight and hard from inflammation. Fascia can put up to 2000 pounds per square inch of pressure on whatever it is surrounding, so it’s no surprise that so many people are living with chronic pain! Think about that - 2000 pounds on your lower back or your neck or your heart or lungs or brain. Even 100 pounds of pressure is an unbelievable amount and would cause a lot of problems. Tightness in the fascial system will also cause cells to stop functioning properly. What do you think happens when cells can’t work properly? They are forced to mutate and adapt to their environment. Guess which disease starts with cell mutation? That’s right – cancer! Guess which disease is caused by inflammation? That’s right, all of them!!! And what causes inflammation? Stress, certain foods, strenuous exercise, sugar, alcohol, certain drugs/medications, injuries and trauma (mental, emotional and physical). So it seems pretty obvious to me that an unhealthy or imbalanced lifestyle will result in an unhealthy fascial system and can lead to a lot of serious problems.

There a few ways to tell if your fascia is tight or restricted. The most obvious sign is that your soft tissue doesn’t feel soft. Now I’m talking about when you’re sitting or lying in a relaxed position. How do your muscles feel? How does your abdomen feel? Contrary to what we’ve been told for years and years, we don’t want our bodies to be tight, we need them to move freely and easily. You should be able to sink your hand into your belly easily with no resistance. Your muscles shouldn’t be hard unless you are contracting them. Think raw steak vs. beef jerky – if your body at rest feel