Fascia is very strong. It holds our whole body together and gives it its shape. Bones are used like struts or spacers to maintain a dynamic but balanced system of forces. These forces are provided by muscles, ligaments and tendons and we employ them every day to move about and do things. Movement experts like dancers, gymnasts and martial arts practitioners are able to harness and direct the forces bound up in the myofascia to achieve truly amazing physical feats.
Despite its great strength and flexibility, the myofascial system can and does go wrong. Trauma, disease, repetitive stressful movement, emotional upset and a host of other factors can adversely affect fascia. Ground substance can cool and become more viscous, fascial layers can adhere to one another and dense inflexible patches of fibrous tissue can be laid down which protect stressed joints but severely restrict movement. This is where myofascial release comes in.
Therapists who practice myofascial release employ techniques to stretch the fascial net. Think of a fitted sheet on your bed. A pull in one corner will cause a torsional disturbance throughout the whole sheet. A myofascial therapist will try and “smooth this out”. This might involve deep focused pressure on one spot or it might be more like a gentle stretch applied over a broad area of superficial fascial layers. The skill is in putting these techniques together to release tension in the whole fascial system.
Myofascial release is intense. It shouldn’t hurt but the process of releasing (often deeply held) adhesions and fibrotic tissue can be challenging. And slow. Often several sessions are needed to fully restore the fascial web but the feeling of movement and possibility is usually well worth the effort.