Friday, February 3, 2012

Myofascial release and (sports) injuries

The other day, I had a wonderful session with a client who has chronic pain which flares up sometimes and stems from an auto accident she suffered many years ago.  At the time she came to see me, there was acute pain near the spine, so I was a little hesitant to work directly on the area with any forceful deep tissue-type work.  Consequently, our session turned into nearly 90 minutes of almost solely myofascial release work.  We had tremendous results. Inspiring results.

This hugely productive session, was exciting for me (and my client, too, I think), and it got me thinking: what role can myofascial release have in injury recovery?  I did a little searching, and found something that surprised me just a tad: most of the articles that popped up in the top of the search results had to do with sports injuries and myofascial release.  Is the sports medicine scene ahead of the curve here, and
why hasn't the orthopedic medicine world caught on?  I don't have the answer to those questions, but I'll bet that what works for the major athletes will begin to be adopted by the general public.  I'd like to help that happen, and here's just some of the how and why myofascial release can benefit injury recovery...

As I've mentioned in the previous myofascial release post, the fascial network runs continuously throughout the entire body, head-to-toe, in all 3 dimensions.  It also has a tensile characteristic, and can apply tremendous tensile loads - allegedly of up to 2000 lbs per square inch (your car's tires probably need less than 50psi).  So now imagine that your muscles are inside and being squeezed on by a mesh bag with even a couple hundred pounds per square inch.  Ouch.  This can happen if there are postural holding patterns or trauma in the fascia.  Soft tissue trauma typically results in scar tissue.  Fascial scar tissue lacks elasticity and can contribute to fascial restrictions and these pressures.

Renowned myofascial release practitioner and educator, John Barnes, presents that fascia is not only connective tissue, but it is also a major shock absorber that runs throughout the entire body.  He notes that because fascial scar tissue will lack and perhaps even lose of elasticity, it will be a less effective shock absober.  If the fascia is never treated, then the shocks of daily life (let alone falls, impacts or other traumas) will be absorbed by other structures, causing other injuries, even contributing to recurring injuries which may plague an individual for years.

Myofascial release techniques use relatively gentle pressure, and treat the entirety of the fascial network at once.  With a less-pressure approach, we can likely work closer to a painful area than we could with other manual therapies (such as deep tissue, or even Swedish massage).  Even if we cannot work closely to the injured area, the continuous nature of the fascial network allows us to address issues from a distant part of the body, allowing the practitioner to use as much force as necessary.

This means that myofascial techniques can usually be applied immediately after an injury has been incurred - even if it must be somewhat distant to the injury site - and can have immediate results.  So myofascial techniques have the capabilities to address an injury sooner than many other modalities, and they have the potential to help relieve an underlying and contributing cause of recurring injuries.

What's your injury story, and how might myofascial release fit into its recovery?

Links to resource articles: