In the practice of Myofascial Release, we focus on finding fascial restrictions in the individual, generating the proper amounts of pressure, and waiting a sufficient amount of time—five minutes or longer—for a number of important physiologic processes to occur. These include piezoelectricity, mechanotransduction, phase transition and ultimately, resonance, which is another word for the release we hope to help our clients achieve.
This article will delve deeper into one of those processes—mechanotransduction, a process whereby physical force can generate cellular biochemical responses. Modern biology and medicine have been dominated by genetics and biochemistry for the past century, but recent research reveals that physical forces and mechanics may play as important a role in the control of cell and tissue development as do chemicals and genes.
I just came across an article in the October 2014 edition of Scientific American. I’ll condense a few thoughts on it here; for more detail you might want to read the entire article, “Twists of Fate.” The article talks in great detail about how genes tell cells how to act, and the cytoskeleton which is the internal framework of the cell. It describes how a special set of proteins serve as cables, struts and tie rods, illustrating the tensegrity concept developed by the iconoclastic genius, Buckminster Fuller. The cells’ cytoskeletons are influenced by the extracellular matrix, i.e. the fascia, which are in a constant tug of war. Balance is important to health. Basically, mechanical forces can affect cells’ fate.
The Scientific American article goes on to discuss that cancer is a disease of a disturbed microenvironment as much as it is a result of disturbed genes. Alterations of cell shape and the fascia’s extracellular matrix actually precede the onset of tumors and may even initiate disease. According to Valerie Weaver’s research at the University of California, San Francisco, cited in the article: “…researchers are pursuing an unorthodox idea about cancer; they think the initial acquisition of malignant properties may not necessarily involve accumulations of genetic lesions, rather cancer may result from a rift in the body’s normal microscopic architecture.” The findings of a research study published in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology in September 2012, “Transduction of mechanical and cytoskeletal cues by YAP and TAZ,” support this theory of cancer genesis.
To learn even more about the scientific aspect of mechanotransduction, look up the research of Donald E. Ingber, an amazingly brilliant scientist who has researched mechanotransduction and tensegrity for over three decades. His article, “The Architecture of Life,” published in Scientific American in January 1998, is a good place to begin.
You are doing important work; so much information is now emerging to support what you and I have been doing for so long. Restoring the body’s microenvironment is so critical to our health. Fascia is truly the architecture of life.
John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is 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, and 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). He is on the counsel of advisors of the American Back Society; he is also a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit www.myofascialrelease.com.
For more information about myofascial release, access two excerpts from the Fireside Chat with John F. Barnes, P.T., DVD on YouTube:
To connect with John Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/myofascial.release.