How Does Advanced Structural Bodywork Compare To Other Styles of BodyWork?
MyoFascial Release &
Fascially Oriented Bodywork
It is the tendency of many MyoFascial instructors and practitioners to put a great deal of emphasis on FASCIA as the primary focus of rebalancing the postural distortions of the body. Yet we feel this emphasis is often excessive.
It is true, fascia is a vital, very important (and often ignored) organ, and it deserves much attention. Fascia is “connective tissue” present throughout the entire body, surrounding all the organs, nerves and muscle fibers of the body. It has many highly important functions, such as being a system of metabolic support and transmission of sensory information, among others. And of course, it “connects” muscle fibers to bones by way of tendons, which are made by the convergence of fascial muscle sheaths converging to become tendons, then connecting to the bones.
Fascia also has widely varying consistencies and characteristics, depending on which part of the fascial system one is observing. Most importantly for this discussion, fascia surrounds and supports all the muscle bundles, individual muscle fiber groups, and the organs.
Can Fascia “Contract”?
One important difference between facia and muscle is that muscle cells have the capacity to mechanically contract and relax to a substantial degree. Fascia cannot mechanically relax (except to the slight degree as noted below).
Yet their are different definitions and mechanisms of relaxation and contraction that must be considered. [Excerpt from Edge of Physio]]
Muscle fibers can shorten or lengthen on command from the nervous system and brain / mind. As well, they can contract (shorten) up to 70% of their resting length.
Fascia, on the other hand, has no significant contractile fiber* that can contract or relaxin a substantial way. There is also not the neurological motor control found in neuromuscular units. Fascia has many sensory nerves, but no motor nerves. If there re no motor nerves, then the CNS and brain cannot produce or control any contraction in the fascia.
Hydration and Thixotropy
Rather than the kind of contraction / relaxation a muscle cell has, fascia changes consistency as a function of its local chemistry and hydration. Only sensory nerves are directly involved with the fascia, sending data TO the central nervous system; there are no motor nerves controlling its function or movement. Like bones, any movement that the fascia enjoys is the result of going along for the ride when a muscle contracts or relaxes.
* Contractile Fascial Fibers: there is evidence that a small number of contractile fibers develop in areas of soft tissue injury. Yet these are smooth muscle fibers, theorized by some medical researchers to be produced after an injury to help stabilize and protect very localized, injured soft tissues.
Smooth muscle fibers are far more associated with organ and vessel function rather than structural, postural and movement functions. They cannot generate the levels of force that the striated (skeletal) muscle fibers can. The level of “pulling power” of smooth muscle fibers does not indicate they are much, if at all, involved in postural, structural or movement oriented functions.
Over time, the kinetic energy levels within fascia can be reduced for various reasons (often from injury or aging). It becomes harder and less resilient, sometimes nearly rigid, as in the scarring of tissue. This hardening can often be reduced, though, by adding kinetic energy directly to the hardened tissue with application of, for example, heat, movement or manual pressure. Working with fascia should be integrated into the perspective and techniques of any good bodywork system, as it is with the Schools of Advanced Bodywork.
However, since the ability to consciously “relax” or “contract” fascia is physiologically non-existent, the Client would, in a bodywork session, have nothing that they can directly “do” with their fascia. Therefore, if fascia is the focus of the treatment, the Client is completely reliant on the therapist to DO something TO them, to FIX them. This is along the lines of the “mechanic” model of bodywork. … Kind of like switching out a part on a car at the repair shop.
Since Advanced Structural Bodywork is significantly focused on what the Client can learn to do for themselves, we focus mostly on the musculature while simultaneously accounting for the built in properties of fascia, and the nerves controlling it all. In therapy, if done properly, the fascia is affected directly while working on the muscles, because one cannot work on muscles without going through and within the facia anyway. Muscle and fascial fibers are so intertwined as to be inseparable. Those who teach that you can “stretch” or otherwise treat the fascia independently of the muscles are living in an abstraction with no reality in the real world.
It is the Client’s internal ability to relax or contract their musculature that gives them any ability to affect the fascia on their own in the first place, so the primary attention is on a system that the Client can actually do something with on their own, without the therapist; that being the neuromuscular system.
Because fascia responds best to slow steady pressure, the concept of Playing the Edge of pain, fear and resistance is perfectly suited to the characteristics of fascia. When applying pressure to the local tissue, the Practitioner waits until it softens, which could be either the fascia softening through chemical change, or the muscle relaxing via reduction of biochemical charge from the nerves.