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By: Lindsay Taylor, MSH

If you have participated in rehabilitation or even just around a fitness facility, you may have heard the term thrown around myofascial release. Myofascial release was first termed in the 1960’s as an alternative medicine concept and nearly 60 years later, it is still being utilized in health and wellness industry as a therapy technique. Although the concept has been around for decades, the term has been thrown around more than ever in the last few years yet not many people truly understand what it is. This article is to provide a better understanding to the term “myofascial” specifically the fascia.

The term myofascial can be broken down into “myo” meaning muscle and “fascia” meaning a thin sheath of fibrous tissue. The easiest way to think of fascia in the human body is to picture the white, fibrous and extremely tough, thin layer that surrounds a chicken breast or the white thick membrane when you peel an orange. Much like the chicken and the orange, the human body has a specialized system (fascial) that encompasses every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord.

The main purpose of fascia in the human body is to provide support and help reduce the friction of muscular force. The fascia is composed of collagen and elastin and is generally smooth and slippery and able to glide between the skin, muscles and organs. Trauma, overuse, nutrition, and inactivity are a few reasons the fascia can be interrupted causing the fascia to meet the demand of the resistance placed on the body.

Think back to grade school and Newton’s Third Law of Motion: for every force in nature, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For example, walking. To walk, there are multiple forces that take place to create friction and gain movement. Those same forces are equally creating an opposite reaction with the human body to absorb the force, starting with the normal force of the ground into the foot. The continual force to create the friction for movement is then generated up the body and is absorbed by the fascia reducing the friction of muscular force. In time, if the demand that is placed on the body is not addressed through stretching and movement during recovery, a plethora of issues will begin to develop. The collagen will begin to create sticky, cobweb-like collagen fibers that will solidify to the muscle, adhering the fascia to the muscle. When this process takes place our body will experience an increase in stiffness, decreasing range of motion and a decrease in blood flow, gas and nutrient exchange, potentially being an underlying cause for further areas of pain.

Following decades of fascia being overlooked and considered insignificant, recent research has concluded that the fascia is not only the origin of pain and disorder but also a starting point for new approaches to healing. Research continues to evolve and the understanding of how extraordinary the interconnected single system protective barrier truly is. Now that you a general understanding of fascia in the human body, be sure to check back and read self myofascial release techniques to incorporate into your daily routine.

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