Is there a wrong way to do deep myofascial release?
On my latest sabbatical, I had the fortunate opportunity to study with the master of Myofascial Release Technique, John Barnes, P.T..
It was 9 days of advanced studies into the world that I have practiced throughout my career, and I was both confounded and astounded by what was presented.
After the first 3 day session I was a bit ticked-off as I have previously been taught the exact techniques throughout my career by many notable teachers. This class cost A LOT of money! But, I resigned to continue with an open mind. I knew there was more than technique that was going to be explained and what I learned was astounding!
The culmination of technique PLUS the energetic component that allows for complete release of fascia and the emotional/physical binds accumulated within the brain/body are miraculous!
The myofascial perspective is that symptoms are only the tip of the iceberg. The traditional medical approach narrowly focuses on symptoms. Physicians give the symptoms a label and medicate their patients so they are temporarily free from pain, but this approach does nothing about the straight-jacket of pressure that is causing the pain. Likewise, traditional physical, occupational and massage therapy, acupuncture, and energy techniques only treat the symptoms caused by the straight-jacket of pressure, but ignore the myofascial restrictions that cause and perpetuate the symptoms. This is why so many clients have only temporary results and never seem to get better with traditional therapeutic techniques.
I learned how to feel for the myofascial restrictions, and then apply gentle but firm pressure into the restriction for a sustained period of time. This time factor that has been ignored by other forms of therapy is essential for comprehensive and lasting results. Sustained pressure eventually energizes the liquid crystals of the body to rise to a level of excitation where resonance occurs.
Resonance means that molecules begin to vibrate in unison, allowing blocked energy to flow and the tissues to rehydrate. This vibrational resonance and resultant rehydration of the tissue is what I call a release.
If too much pressure is used, the subconscious mind goes into a protective mode and yields only temporary results. If too little pressure is used or not enough time per technique is provided, the piezoelectric phenomenon (the generation of electric fields in the cellular level) does not occur, again providing only temporary results. When you apply pressure into the body/mind complex, the felt sense is that of softening and some motion. This is the elastic and muscular component of myofascial stretching. This is what all other forms of therapy thought was the release. It is not! This is just step one of a multifaceted process that is required for long-lasting results. After the elastic and muscular component releases, one then encounters a “dead halt,” which is the collagenous barrier. The dead halt feels like you have hit a brick wall. The collagenous barrier will not release from force.
I learned that I must then wait at the collagenous barrier with gentle but firm pressure for a minimum of 3-5 minutes before the collagenous barrier will respond by softening, reducing the enormous pressure on pain-sensitive structures and increasing motion. It is therefore important to utilize the correct pressure and sufficient time to elicit the piezoelectric phenomenon.
The fascial system is a piezoelectric system. Piezoelectric means pressure electricity. The crystalline structures of our cells are piezoelectric, which means electrical fields are generated when compressed or stretched for a sufficient amount of time. In other words, the sustained pressure eventually converts mechanical deformation into bio-electric flow.
The myofascial system tends to dehydrate after trauma or inflammatory processes, turning the ground substance into the equivalent of glue or cement. Other forms of therapy release the cross-links that occur from trauma, but do not change the dehydration and resultant solidification of the ground substance. Myofascial techniques release the cross-links, and also, very importantly, cause the thixotrophic gel to change to a more fluid state, allowing for decreased pressure on pain-sensitive structures and increased motion, and allows the solidified, dehydrated thixotrophic gel to transition to a liquid state. Hence, the temporary results found with other forms of therapy, since only part of the myofascial restriction has been released. Myofascial release is the “missing link” in health care since it is successful in releasing the cross-links and rehydrating the ground substance. This rehydration of the ground substance allows for a complete release all the way down to the cellular level.
I am excited and energized by what I have learned! John Barnes, P.T., is a master in the field and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study with him.