The Facts of Fascia

What is it? What does it do?

Fascia is an embryonic tissue often called connective tissue, in the form of a web-like, three dimensional matrix that intertwines, surrounds, protects and supports every other structure of the human body. It is a single, uninterrupted sheet of tissue that extends from the inner aspects of the skull down to the soles of the feet and from the exterior to the interior of the body, ultimately making up the shape and form of the body itself. Fascia has been described as the largest system in the human body because it touches all other structures (however this doesn’t seem to apply in the pub quiz, as they tend to only take skin as the answer, but it is not!)

No tissue acts in isolation; all act on, and are bound and interwoven with, other structures. Fascia covers and interpenetrates every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord.

Seeing as the Fascia system is one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption,  we can understand that where we feel the pain may not be where the constriction emanates from. I may feel pain in my back, but ultimately it could originate from a scar on my abdomen.  In this way we can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia: A three dimensional tensile web, that possesses 10 times more sensory nerve receptors than it’s muscular equivalent. As such it is a signaling system with an integrated function akin to the nervous system. The fascia network adapts its fibre arrangements and density according to the local and tensional demands placed on it.

Fascia has three elements; the two main fibres are Collagen and Elastin, which are forms of protein. Together they exist in a viscous gel-like fluid called ground substance. Collagen provides strength and stability when pressure is applied to guard against over extension. Elastin provides the elastic quality that allows the tissue to stretch to the limit of the collagen fibres’ length, whilst absorbing tensile force. The ground substance enables the sliding motion of stretching and recoil. However if we are unable to move freely, sustain injury or engage in repetitive actions this ground substance can thicken and reduce the lengthening of the tissue, culminating in restricted movement patterns and pain. Our bodies lay down the ground substance every day and if we do not move to keep it fluid, it can become sticky and restrictive.

Myofascial Release Therapy

The Facts of FasciaEach Myofascial Release Treatment session is performed directly on skin without oils, creams or machinery. This enables the therapist to accurately detect fascia restrictions and apply the appropriate amount of sustained pressure to facilitate release of the fascia.  It is a safe and very effective technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.

The Practitioner has to wait until they feel the fascia melt (minimum of 90sec up to 5 minutes before melt starts to occur) and then with a cross hand movement lengthen the facial tissue.

The essential “time element” has to do with the viscous flow and the piezoelectric phenomenon: a low load (gentle pressure) applied slowly will allow a viscoelastic medium (the fascia) to elongate.

Trauma, inflammatory responses, and/or surgical procedures create Myofascial restrictions that can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in many of the standard tests (x-rays, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.)

The use of Myofascial Release allows us to look at each client as a unique individual. The one-on-one therapy sessions are hands-on treatments during which the therapist uses multiple Myofascial Release techniques and movement therapy. These techniques help propel body mechanics and movement, improve flexibility, plus postural and movement awareness.

Who would benefit from this modality? Individuals who have dysfunction, tension headaches, visceral pain, muscular pain and scaring.
MFR is most commonly known for its oil-less, light, non-invasive technique to make a functional change in connective tissue. Fascia techniques can also be used in a deeper manner like skin rolling, where the skin is pulled away from muscular contents.  Entire muscle compartments can also be manipulated during myofascial release to break down adhesions that interfere with the body’s function causing pain in muscles, scar tissue and skin. This technique is very useful to directly break down adhesions, improve range of motion through a joint, and to alleviate pain, giving free body function.

For more information please access these experts on the internet/you tube videos:

Ruth Duncan – MFRUK
John F Barnes
Gil Headley
Robert Schleip
Jean-Claude Guimberteau
‘A Patient’s Guide to Understanding John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release’
by Cathy Covell, PT


Linda Freeman