What is it?
Myofascial massage is often performed without a lubricant and may include passive stretching, slow strokes with prolonged holds, or cupping. This type of massage is intended to aid in the release of very tight and restricted muscle groups, especially around the spine, the shoulders, and the legs.
It is important to note that while myofascial massage is intended to treat fascia, and despite the presence of much anecdotal evidence to support its efficacy, there is currently little scientific research that sheds light on how exactly myofascial release works. New research even notes that fascia may be too tough and dense to release via massage therapy or other physical manipulations. There are theories that fascial work is really neurological work, which explains why folks often feel great relief with massage that is intended to manipulate fascia.
We do know that massage affects fascia in some way, but we are unable to say to what extent. Because we support the use of techniques that provide relief to our clients, we continue to incorporate fascial work into our massages.
What exactly is fascia?
It is an important connective tissue composed mainly of collagen fibres within the body. Other tissues in the category include tendons and ligaments. Tendons connect muscle to bone (like at your achilles tendon, which connect your calf muscles to your heel). Ligaments connect bone to bone, and fascia is a translucent layered web of connective tissue that envelops muscles, suspends organs, and adds integrity to joints. Interestingly, fascia is still not fully understood. Currently, there are ongoing hypotheses related to its full function that are explored at the International Fascia Research Congress.
As fascia is such an integral part of the body, we never treat it (and indeed, cannot treat it) in isolation from muscles, joints, tendons, or ligaments. As such, please be mindful that if you book in for a myofascial treatment, your therapist will note your intent but will include a mix of techniques.
Reduce general tightness
Alleviate jaw and scalp tension
Focused release on tense areas
Relieve Headaches, Jaw tension, Lower back pain, Lower leg and hamstring stiffness, Upper crossed syndrome (“Office posture”)
History of Myofascial
There are a two main lineages that inform current methods of fascial work in massage therapy: Ida P. Rolf and John F. Barnes.
Ida P. Rolf (d. 1979) was the original ‘mother’ of myofascial work. Rolf gained a PhD in biological chemistry in 1920, and used her training to seek out answers about the body and its ailments. Rolf hypothesized that fascia was found in large sheets in the body, and that those sheets could be physically manipulated. She believed that both posture and structure could be changed by manipulating the myofascial system of the body. Because Rolf was passionate about research and seeking out information, a research foundation in her name continues to fund fascia research today.
Rolf would have faced many challenges as a woman in the field of science and medicine in the early 20th century. We at Sore Spots take much inspiration from her spirit, persistence, and dedication to research, and think of her as a renegade bodyworker ahead of her time.
John F. Barnes obtained a BSc in Physical Therapy in 1960. He began teaching myofascial seminars in the 1970s, and continues to teach intensive courses in fascial work today. Barnes’ approach is what most therapists commonly use today. You can read more about how he developed his techniques here.
Other forms of fascially minded techniques include cupping, fascial stretch therapy and graston.
Does fascial work hurt?
Anecdotally, many of our clients tell us that past fascial work has been deeply painful. This need not be the case! With careful communication, our style of fascial work - including cupping, passive stretching, and prolonged muscle strokes with no lotion - can be accomplished in a pain-free manner.
What is cupping?
Cupping is the use of small plastic cups that create suction on the skin. The purpose of cupping is to loosen muscle and surrounding connective tissue and increase blood flow to the treated area. Your therapist may suggest using cups on certain areas of restricted movement.