Fascia is a powerful three-dimensional web that covers and connects every system of our body.
There is a microfascial system within every cell. Trauma, surgery and thwarted inflammatory responses can produce fascial restrictions that can exert crushing pressure of up to approximately 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch on the various pain-sensitive structures in the body.
It is important to understand that fascial restrictions do not show up in any of the standard testing now being done, including X-rays, CT scans, myelograms or blood work. Therefore, fascial restrictions have long been missed or misdiagnosed.
New technology based on probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy shows the three-dimensional fibrous web and the fluid within the fascial system, also referred to as the fascia’s ground substance. The recognition of the fluid aspect of the fascial system is a major shift in the understanding of cellular function.
The work of Gerald H. Pollack, PhD, at the University of Washington, provides an understanding of the physics of how the fluid moves through the fascial system. We’ve all been brought up to believe there are three phases of water: ice, water and vapor. It turns out, discovered through the work of Pollock, that there is a fourth phase, liquid crystal.
Liquid crystal has the characteristics of both solid and fluid and is capable of change. Another word for liquid crystal is fascia.
Further, a book called The Extracellular Matrix and Ground Regulation: Basis for a Holistic Biological Medicine (North Atlantic Books, 2017), by one of Austria’s leading scientists, Alfred Pischinger, MD, (1899–1982), represents over 30 years of research on the fascial system.
Pischinger found there is no nerve or blood vessel that touches any of the trillions of cells in our body. The fascial matrix and the space in the matrix—which is not actually space but a fluid/viscous substance called the ground substance—is the environment of every cell.
The fascial system is the main transport system of our body. This means the nutrition we ingest, the fluid we drink, the air we breathe, all the biochemistry, hormones and information/energy that every one of the trillions of our cells needs to thrive, must go through the fluidity of the fascial system.
Then, as the cell attempts to excrete waste products, the ground substance of the fascia must be fluid for it to reach the lymphatic system. The solidification of the fluid nature of the ground substance can create physiological chaos.
The problem is, up until recently all research had been done on cadavers. As you know, dead people are brittle.
Unfortunately, science ignored the importance of the fascia’s fluid ground substance. This explains why too many forms of massage, bodywork and energy work produce only temporary results.
However, the principles of myofascial release will help eradicate the symptoms of pain, restriction of movement, fibromyalgia, headaches and a multitude of women’s health issues.
An MFR Technique for Back Pain
Since back pain is one of the bigger factors in our society, I would like to teach you a myofascial release technique that you can utilize for a majority of your clients. I call it a cross-hand lumbosacral decompression.
Have your client lie prone with a pillow under their chest for comfort.
There should be no lotion whatsoever used on the skin, because when the client has lotion on their skin you cannot do myofascial release; in fact, you will exhaust yourself as a therapist and not get the profound results that are possible for your clients.
Place one hand lightly on your client’s sacrum, fingers pointing toward their feet. Cross your hands and place the other hand very lightly over their high lumbar, low thoracic area. Always move very slowly with myofascial release, never abruptly.
With myofascial release you don’t grip; your hands should be soft and contoured to the shape of the client’s body. This gives you great sensitivity and strength. Then, very slowly, allow your hands to drop toward the table until you feel mild resistance. Keep your pressure light. Go down to resistance and just nudge into it like you are making handprints in soft clay.
Then slowly, without sliding, open your hands in opposite directions. Not sliding enables you to use the fascial system as a powerful lever that reaches deeply into the body where the real problems lie.
As you open your hands, the first give you feel will be the elastic-muscular component, which represents about 20 percent of the fascial system. This is what practitioners of other forms of massage, bodywork and energy work think a release is, but it’s not; it’s only a partial release, producing only temporary results.
The key is, you will eventually hit a point where it feels like as you open your hands you hit a brick wall or come to a dead halt. This is the collagenous barrier, which most practitioners ignore and don’t spend enough time with, is the other 80 percent of the fascial system.
At this point, just nudge into the barrier with gentle-but-firm pressure. Take a step or so back to use your body as leverage, because this is not about brute force. Then wait, patiently, for at least five minutes. When the release does occur, it feels like butter melting or taffy stretching; in other words, there is a sense of softening.
At that point, take the slack out some more without sliding on the surface until you hit the next barrier. Most people have a multitude of barriers, because fascial restrictions have been ignored for so long. Patience is very, very important.
Somewhere around the five-minute period, a series of phenomena occur that are essential for authentic healing and lasting results.
First, the client’s body begins to produce piezoelectricity. The cells of our body have a crystalline nature, and when you put pressure into a crystal it generates an electrical flow. So in our body what occurs is a bio-electric flow.
This is usually coupled with a phenomena called mechanotransduction. Our mechanical pressure, around the five-minute mark, begins to produce a biochemical, hormonal effect at the cellular level.
It has now recently been discovered, also through mechanotransduction, that the mindbody begins to produce interleukin-8, which is the body’s natural anti-inflammatory. Also, interleukin-3 and interleukin-1b are produced, which have to do with increasing circulation and boosting our immune system.
Next, we move into phase transition, which is the phenomenon where ice transforms into water. Obviously, in our body it’s not ice; it’s the solidification of the fluid component of the fascial system. It’s ground substance, which creates that before-mentioned crushing pressure on pain-sensitive structures. There is a chaotic period during the phase transition, and it is in the chaotic period where change, growth and healing can occur.
Ultimately, we move into what is called resonance, which is another word for release.
These phenomena allow the tissue, which has solidified and produced crushing pressure, to start to rehydrate and be capable of glide again. This takes the pressure off pain-sensitive structures to enable proper function and elimination of pain.
About the Author:
John F. Barnes, PT, LMT, is president of the Myofascial Release Treatment Centers and Seminars, an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 100,000 therapists worldwide in his myofascial release approach. He is the author of Myofascial Release: The Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000).