You might have heard your massage therapist talking about working on your fascia and connective tissues – ever wondered what they were talking about?
Fascia is another name for the fibrous connective tissues that you have all over your body. There are three main types of fascia; superficial fascia which is mostly found in the skin, deep fascia which surrounds your muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels; and visceral fascia which is mostly associated with the internal organs.
For massage purposes, we’re dealing with your deep fascia – the connective tissue that surrounds your muscles and muscle groups.
What does muscle fascia do?
It’s the connective tissue responsible for holding muscles together and keeping them where they should be. It also helps to separate individual muscles within their groups so that they can work independently, and it provides a lubricated surface which allows the muscles to move smoothly against each other.
If you’re inactive for a long time, because of a sedentary lifestyle or illness, your muscle fascia can start to stick together, stopping your muscles moving freely and giving you a tight, stiff feeling. In some cases, this can also limit your mobility.
Myofascial Release is a specialized type of massage therapy that can help to free up stiff fascia and reduce tension or restriction.
In this type of massage, therapists feel and stretch slowly down into the tissues, all the time feeling for a glue-like texture which means there’s a ‘sticky’ fascia. It’s not the same technique as you’ll get in an everyday muscle based massage so it might feel a little unusual. It’s a very precise massage technique that involves using a gentle yet direct pressure for five to eight minutes. If the fascial release massage is carried out for too long, the fascia can start to resist the pressure so the therapist will be very carefully feeling for any signs of resistance.
The massage should give your fascia a chance to return to its normal resting length which will feel a lot better, ease any pain or stiffness and boost muscle health.
Who benefits from fascial massage?
If you have issues with your posture, this type of therapy could be useful. If the fascial tissue is holding your body in the wrong position, your muscles will struggle to keep you in the correct alignment. Your connective tissue then starts to work harder and this can lead to other problems. A combination of bad posture and gravity lead to extra stresses on your body that can be relieved with fascial therapy.
If you have scar tissue from previous injuries, some fascial massage might relieve some of the discomfort. In scar tissue, the tissue is laid down in a random pattern, which can cause it to pull on the surrounding tissue. Using fascial therapy can help to release some of the pain and stiffness caused by scar tissue dysfunction.
Athletes dealing with muscle strain, lack of flexibility or pain could also make use of this type of therapy. Fascial therapy can help to increase athletes’ range of motion and decrease pain, making training a whole lot easier.