Fascia is the head-to-toe connective tissue that runs throughout the entire body. The fascia encompasses all the body’s internal structures, connecting everything together, even penetrating the muscles, organs and fatty tissues, and connecting bones to muscles and organs to each other. It looks like an extremely large spider web, with each thread connecting to another, which connects to another, and so on.
Because the fascia is connected to the muscles and every other part of the body’s internal mechanisms, it stands to reason that when the fascia is tight and choked, it can cause tenderness, pain – called myo (muscle) fascial (covering) pain – and other health conditions.
Myofascial pain can have two sources: Pain can be generated from the skeletal muscle or connective tissues that are bound by tight fascia and it can also be generated from damaged myofascial tissue, called a “trigger point.” Chronic myofascial pain is different from the occasional muscle soreness caused by workout or a weekend of painting. The most common cause is the repeated contraction of a muscle, which could be due to physical, mental or emotional stress, as well as to repetitive motion.
When the Fascia is Tight:
- Blood flow in the small veins is restricted, which can cause swelling or just make it hard for blood to move throughout the body.
- Nerve signals between the muscles and the brain can be interrupted, resulting in decreased muscle output.
- Joints are tighter and often “torqued,” which can cause strains, pain, swelling, limited range of motion and headaches.
- The chronic pain can increase feelings of anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Treating Myofascial Pain
If you feel a muscle knot or deep ache that gets steadily worse, regular myofascial massage therapy can help by releasing and loosening the fascia. Many people can benefit from myofascial massage therapy after losing flexibility or function following an injury or if experiencing ongoing back, shoulder, hip pain or pain in any area containing soft tissue.
Some conditions that can be treated include temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, chronic muscle pain and more. Myofascial pain affects men and women equally, though more women than men suffer from fibromyalgia, and the same treatment works equally well for both genders.
Relaxing Contracted Muscles
At Massage Envy, our professional therapists are experienced in addressing the pain that comes from chronic muscle contraction. Each Myofascial Release Treatment session is performed directly on the skin without oils, creams or machinery. This enables the therapist to accurately detect fascial restrictions and apply the appropriate amount of sustained pressure to facilitate the release of the fascia.
Specific massage techniques include moving across the grain of the muscle, gentle traction (gently pulling the arms, legs or head), static (still) pressure and positioning the joints in different angles that create a natural stretch. Along with encouraging muscle spasms to relax, myofascial massage helps break up adhesions in the affected fascia.
Depending on individual needs, myofascial massage treatment might include:
- Deep Tissue Massage: Targets knots and releases chronic tension by stroking across the grain of your muscles, rather than with the grain as in a relaxation massage. While deep pressure on the fascia can sometimes be slightly uncomfortable, the lasting benefits often outweigh any short-term soreness.
- Hot Stone Massage: Uses smooth, water-heated stones to penetrate and relax muscles so the therapist can reach deeper layers, reducing myofascial pain while promoting relaxation and stress relief. The warm stones help expand blood vessels, resulting in better circulation and a sedative effect that can help diminish stress as well as relieve chronic pain.
Myofascial massage is an effective way of addressing those issues before they increase your level of pain. Simply taking time to relax with a massage makes a powerful statement about the importance of your wellness. What’s more, the relaxing effects of massage are cumulative, which means that regular massage therapy helps you build and maintain your health. FBN
By Mark Love
Mark Love is the co-owner of Massage Envy Spa Flagstaff, located at 1235 S. Plaza Wayin the University Plaza Shopping Center next to Safeway. For more information on the benefits of massage and to schedule an appointment with a massage therapist, visit MassageEnvy.com or call 928-526-ENVY (3689).