Why is the Fascia important?
The general answer is: fascia plays an important role as it delicately conducts a symbiotic relationship between stability and movement.
One of the most important aspects of the fasciae is to reduce the friction of muscular force; which in turn provides a supportive and movable wrapping of blood vessels and nerves that pass between the muscles. Not unlike a spider web, the fascia wraps your body from head to toe, with a complete protective covering; it stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles, as well as other organs.
Now we know the technical side, what does it mean? Well, if you have ever handled a raw chicken breast with the skin on, and started to pull the skin off, and it looks like these clear stringy (spider web like) material that holds onto the skin and the breast, that is fascia. Then the clear film over the chicken breast, also fascia.
What is Myofascial Pain Syndrome and how might it be affecting me?
Myofascial Pain Syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. Pain usually originates from a specific point or points within the myofascial tissue, known as “trigger points,” but there are times where pain can be felt in unrelated parts of the body, which is known as “referred pain.”
Myofascial Pain Syndrome typically occurs when the muscles have been contracted repetitively, often associated with repetitive motion jobs, or hobbies, or by stress-related muscle tension. The difference between the pain nearly everyone has experienced with muscle tension pain, and myofascial pain is that the pain syndrome persists or gets worse.
While it is not easy to understand what trigger point is responsible for the pain, a massage therapist will employ the myofascial release techniques over a larger area of the muscles and tissues, instead of a single point. When you are on the table and wondering “why are they working on my mid-back when it is my shoulders that are the issue?” It is because the fascia that is ensnared isn’t always the pain point. Please ask your therapist why they are working on a specific area, especially if you are concerned that they may not have understood your pain point. Those that suffer from myofascial pain syndrome have found great comfort from this type of therapeutic massage.
What are the symptoms of Myofascial Pain?
Deep pain in specific areas of the muscle; pain that worsens when the affected muscle is strained or stretched, or pain that fails to improve with time; the experience and appearance of painful knots, that when pressed produce intense localized or referred pain; muscles that are stiff, with reduced range of motion, weak and inflexible muscles; as well as, sleep and mood changes and/or disturbances.
How is Chronic Myofascial Pain Diagnosed?
Through physical examination, medical history, and a list of your symptoms, reviewed by your healthcare provider, or a qualified medical professional, a detailed examination will take place. They will likely perform tests to exam the affected muscles, check joint range of motion, muscle strength, and isolate and rub suspected trigger points to see how those muscles respond, and if there are any twitches and/or patterns to the pain in a specific region.
Your doctor may also order a blood test to check if there are any other contributing factors, such as: vitamin D deficiency and hypothyroidism.
What are the benefits of Myofascial Release?
Our bodies react to pain by creating a protective response, which can be both good and bad. The bad aspects of our bodies creating a protective response, is that over time, it can lead to buildup of toxins, reduced blood flow and oxygen, and even increased pain.
When we experience injury, whether physical or internal like an ulcer, or even psychological, like depression, our pain signals are sent to our spinal cord for support, which triggers the muscles around the injury to contract to give the need balm of support and protection for the surrounding tissues. If this is left unchecked, a vicious internal pain cycle unfolds, where more blood flow is restricted to the area, which snowballs as more signals are sent out, and more muscles are signaled to tighten in order to protect. The reason blood flow restriction is an issue, is blood brings oxygen to the muscle, and oxygen in turn helps restore, repair, and rejuvenate. The tighter the muscle, the less blood flow, so the tighter the muscle becomes, so even less blood flow.
Myofascial Release corrects muscle imbalances, by relaxing the muscle while simultaneously providing optimal length-tension relationship, which aids in avoiding muscle restrictions when exercising. As a result, it also improves the range of motion within the joint, by breaking down the knots in the muscles, and improving the joints range of motion, by breaking up adhesion and scar tissues.
In addition to correcting muscle imbalances, joint range of motion, Myofascial Release, relieves muscle soreness, and joint stress, giving way to better blood circulation in the body. The by product is improved Neuromuscular Efficiency; the better the blood circulates, the better oxygenation our muscles receives, with the additional benefit of the relief from chronic symptoms such as headaches.
Can a Myofascial Release Massage relieve stress?
Psychological stress can lead to muscle pain and tension. Our body’s natural and automatic reflex is to guard against pain or injury. When we experience sudden stress, our muscles tense up, and release when the stress dissipates.
If you suffer from chronic stress, you remain in an almost constant state of muscle tension, which in turn, leads to pain and headaches, spanning the length of your shoulders and neck. Some, in response to stress, will reduce their physical activity, which causes their muscles to shrink due to the lack of exercise, making it difficult to stop the constant cycle of pain.
The benefits of a Myofascial Massage, are not just limited to muscle and pain relief. Myofascial pain can increase the constant battle with anxiety, depression and insomnia, rendering these an inadvertent casualty of myofascial pain.
Since one of the symptoms, and even triggers of Myofascial Pain Syndrome is stress, it would follow that the benefit of lowering your stress levels would aid in the pain management of this disorder.
By setting aside time to relax with a massage, you are addressing the stress that may have caused such muscle tightness and soreness to begin in the first place. Massage therapy is a vital tool, to help abate stress and anxiety, especially if you are suffering with myofascial pain.
What can I do to manage and improve Myofascial Pain?
Myofascial Pain Syndrome may not be completely preventable, but it is manageable. By improving your posture, making sure your work surfaces are ergonomically correct, reducing body weight, exercising regularly and utilising proper technique, and eating a well balanced diet, you are giving your body the high ground in dealing with Myofascial Pain.
Massage therapy, in addition to following the improvements to posture and overall body health, you will be able to reduce the occurrence of symptoms and speed your general recovery.