What is Myofascia?
The term myofasical stems from two Latin words ‘myo’ meaning muscle and ‘fascia’ for bands. We are all pretty familiar with the importance and roles of the muscles but the fascia is less widely appreciated. It is often referred to as a connective tissue, and it is a 3D continuous web that extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. It surrounds and protects every other tissue of the body including all your organs, muscles, bones and ligaments. Therefore myofascial unit is the combination of the muscles and the fascia which surrounds them. When the fascia is healthy it allows us to move safely and without pain or restriction due to its supportive and cushioning properties.
- 40% of a muscles force can be redistributed laterally to the surrounding myofascia thus tightness in one area can affect other areas of the body.
- 30% of a muscles’ strength comes directly from the surrounding fascia, therefore fascial restrictions can lead directly to muscle weakness.
- It contains 15 times more sensory nerve endings than muscles, so it can be more pain sensitive.
- Fascial scarring and restrictions do not show up on MRI’s, CT scans or X Rays therefore and as such many people could be suffering with pain due to undiagnosed physical and/or emotional fascial problems.
How can we damage the fascia?
There are two ways in which the fascia can be damaged, either by itself or as part of the myofascial unit. The former occurs when the fascia hardens and scars in response to either physical or emotional trauma. This causes the fascial network to lose its cushioning mechanism which in turn creates an abnormal pressure and resultant adverse effects in the surrounding pain sensitive structures. Secondly when muscle fibres are injured the fascia around it will become short and tight, this causes uneven stress levels throughout the myofascial unit and also the surrounding areas.
Instrument Assisted Myofasical Release Techniques (e.g Graston)
As the above suggests the myofascial structures of the body play an important role in the development, progression and chronicity of an injury. Therefore it is important to thoroughly assess and treat these structures to achieve good rehabilitation results.
Assessment is usually performed via manual palpation skills to identify areas of restriction and pain. Recently there has been an advent of many tools which complement and aid both the practitioners palpatory skills and treatment. The most commonly known of these is the Graston spoons, however several more have been developed over the past few years such as the IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue massage) or more traditionally Gua Sha has been used over the last 3000 years. Whatever tool the practitioner utilises the process involves applying a salve to the skin and then rubbing the instrument over the area to identify and treat areas of fascial scarring and restrictions.
Who Can Benefit?
Although this technique started out in the athletic population it’s healing properties are now known to extend further than this remit. Those that suffer with repetitive strain injuries, muscle strains and loss of motion and function due to an injury may benefit from instrument assisted soft tissue techniques. Please find below a list of injuries below which can respond well to it.
• Plantar Fasciitis (foot and arch pain)
• Achilles Tendinitis (ankle pain)
• Muscle Pulls
• Rotator Cuff Tendinitis (shoulder)
• Trigger Points
• Patellofemoral Disorders (knee pain)
• Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
• Muscle Strains
• Medial Epicondylitis (golfers elbow)