Fascia is a densely woven connective tissue containing closely packed bundles of collagen fibres arranged in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull exerted on the tissue fibres by internal and external forces, such as posture, weight gain and mechanical injury. It surrounds and penetrates muscles, blood vessels and nerves, as well as all our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. These layers form one continuous structure with no beginning or end, flowing through the body in a three-dimensional web without interruption. As such, fascia coexists with and determines the integrity of every muscle in the body, from the epimysium that wraps around the whole muscle, down to the sarcolemma of each individual muscle cell.
As fascia surrounds and attaches to all body structures, one of its key roles is that of support. Also, the established function of myofascia in particular is to reduce friction, allowing muscles to glide easily over each other, thus minimising energy waste and enabling the individual elements of major muscle groups to function in a balanced and optimal way. Physical or emotional trauma, postural defects, repetitive stress, inflammation and/or surgical procedures reduce fascia’s pliability, creating restrictions and pressure on sensitive structures. In addition to the sedentary nature of our lifestyle this contributes to the body’s myofascial framework adapting to a ‘holding pattern’. As the muscles weaken due to inactivity, they lose their ability to support the body and the fascia increasingly takes over this role, thickening and tightening in order to work against the effects of gravity, which intensify as posture becomes steadily more misaligned, resulting in reduced mobility and pain.
Myofascial release (superficial and deep) is a technique used to soften fascia and release restrictions in order to facilitate optimal muscular contractions and help restore correct postural alignment. Effectively, the body is ‘unglued’, lengthening areas that have become shortened, re-defining individual muscles so that they work independently, sliding over their neighbours instead of working as a less effective single mass, and increasing mobility. The feeling varies from a slight ‘fizzing’ sensation under the skin (superficial), through to a much more pronounced pulling, which can be quite painful. However, the results are swift and can make a dramatic difference to posture within a relatively short space of time.