What is Fascia and Fascia Massage

Intro to Fascia and Fascia Massage Therapy

Fascia is a multidimensional web of connective tissue. It envelopes your entire inner body, covering every muscle, every bone, every nerve, vessel, muscle fiber + weaves its way connecting everything in between down to each cell’s DNA. It is coated in nutrient rich ground substance, bathing each part of your body with immune cells, electrolytes, water, collagen and so much more. As a crystalline, water based structure, it creates a dynamic matrix that produces energy, conducts energy & communicates with each part of your body & energy field in microseconds. 

Fascia connects every system in the body together. It helps each part of the body communicate with the rest. When it begins to get bound up, it doesn’t transmit the information or nutrients properly until the fascia is released. 

Fascia massage is a targeted approach to untangling this sensory organ so it’s able to work optimally. Fascia therapy is a full body unwinding of the fascial web. The therapist may work on your feet and legs to address pain in your lower back, because it is all connected in this bodysuit of fascia. It may feel gentler than many are used to in a Swedish or deep tissue massage because the fascia massage therapist will be tuning in to the fascial layer that resides directly under your skin. When an area that is fascially restricted is discovered, the light pressure may suddenly have a lot of sensation. Fascia is the most innervated structure in our body, so the tight spaces may have a burning, tingling, or sharp sensation. Your fascia massage therapist will work closely with you to determine your pain levels through the unwinding and ensure a gentle, lasting release.

Fascia Deep-dive

At The Fascia Clinic, we believe fascia is where all the magic happens. Most importantly, it holds the story of your life, your epigenetic patterns and all your unprocessed emotions. This is what makes fascia massage so powerful.

Fascia is 

  • Our story body
  • Our instinctual body
  • Our intuitive body
  • The connection to our energy system
  • The organ that helps to orient us in the world
  • An emotional detoxification system
  • A huge component of our immune system
  • Our core sensory system

Fascia massage works on all these levels.

This collagen web is our main instinctual center. Fascia holds you in positions to help protect and guide you for survival. The tension we feel in our bodies relates directly to the coping patterns we are pulled into physically in our day to day life because of our physical, mental or emotional experiences. Thankfully, we are no longer living in the wild and most of us do not have a reason to be on high alert, in fight or flight, during every moment of our lives. Due to this respite, we are now able to continuously adapt and evolve. When we take care of our fascia through fascia massage and other modalities, we allow this interstitium to be a processing ground - shifting challenging experiences into catalysts for exponential growth. Fascia massage unlocks the root cause of the distortions allowing a true, holistic healing expression.

From Tom Myers’ extensive work in fascia studies and dissections, we have learned that our fascial system is an intricate sensory organ. It picks up information and tells our nervous system how to position our bodies to keep us safe. 

Fascia’s Function

Fascia is a Sensory Organ

As intuitive beings, we are adept at knowing our needs and preemptively avoiding danger. We depend strongly on our fascia to alert us to changes in energy around us. Even if you are sitting at a desk, with headphones on, absorbed in your work, you can feel when someone comes up behind you. Our fascial body is deeply connected to our energetic field, or aura. It’s role is to alert our nervous system of changes in all our sensory organs and cells. It is able to collect and conduct the messages from our senses throughout our body quicker than our nervous system. 

Along with strongly aiding the nervous system in it’s function, our fascia helps to orient us in the world. We know where our limbs are in space because of our fascial awareness. Likewise, when we have a strong fascial awareness of our core muscles like our PSOAS, pectoralis minor and diaphragm, we are able to read our instinctual body more efficiently. Often, we don’t realize that our shoulders are rounding, our head is pulling forward and our quads are engaged. The goal of fascia massage and fascia release is to help you get back in touch with this level of fascial awareness so you are most in tune with yourself. 

Fascia Aids Core Body Functions

Interestingly, fascia sends more than messages, the interstitial fluid that resides in the fascial web is full of mast cells, immune cells, and nutrients that aid in detoxification, injury recovery, and adaptability to our surroundings. This fluid aids in properly hydrating all the cells in our body. 

Fascia also houses much of our nerves, blood vessels and lymphatic system making its health very important to the function of these systems. Much like lymphatic drainage, fascia massage helps to release the restrictions impinging the flow of lymph, blood and nerve input. Current research shows that when tissues are lacking in blood flow and nerve supply, the ischemic muscles will become tense as it atrophies. This means, a disruption in the delivery of these vital fluids can cause tight, painful muscles and fascia massage therapy can help!

This intracellular membrane is responsible for so much of our physical structure and function. Our fascia creates a tensegrity system that holds us upright and buoyant. The gel-like substance that makes up this matrix is highly reactive and adaptable. It is able to take a solid form to brace our body for impact, or remain fluid to help flush our systems with nutrients depending on the current needs. 

Fascia Can Become “Stuck”

Fascia can become stuck after holding a guarding position for too long. This means both from emotional trauma or physical trauma. If you have an injured shoulder, your fascia will help your body pull into an appropriate guarding position to protect it while it heals. Often, after the shoulder is healed, we remain in the guarding position and the joint never fully regains full mobility. This then creates fascial restrictions that can begin binding mobility in nearby joints and structures. The same thing applies to emotional guarding. A common example is when we roll our shoulders in and around our hearts due to worry, stress, fear, etc. This pattern can be perpetuated by poor posture while watching television, working on computers or using cell phones. But, if we don’t perform fascia release, that pattern will begin a ripple effect throughout the rest of the body and lead to other symptoms like headaches, neck pain, chest pains, low back pain, shoulder pain, ear aches, restless legs and more.

When fascia is in it’s healthiest state, it helps you feel light on your feet, mobile, flexible and adaptable. It is able to pull you into the appropriate pattern for each emotion and out of that pattern when it has passed. 

Here are some ways to keep your fascia adaptable and healthy:

  • Proper hydration
  • New and energized movements
  • Walking, dancing, running or rebounding
  • Tending your emotional health
  • Stretching
  • Fascial massage
  • Self fascia release

What to Expect from Fascia Therapy

Fascial bodywork such as fascia massage and fascia release is very important to break patterns through the body and reestablish new supportive movements. A fascia massage feels very much like a traditional massage, while fascial therapy is more like a physical therapy session for your fascia. 

In a fascia massage, the therapist will be assessing the full body patterns that structure the way you show up in the world. From this relaxed state, the therapist is able to feel into which strains need to be addressed first in your fascial therapy session. The soothing rhythmic patterns of massage are familiar in these sessions, but the touch may feel a bit different. Unlike a massage you may have had before, the therapist will be sensing and manipulating the layer of tissue between the skin and muscles. 

Some modalities utilized in a fascial massage session or therapy session are:

  • Trigger Point Therapy
  • The Gillespie Approach
  • Neuromuscular Facilitation
  • Myofascial Release
  • Craniosacral Therapy
  • Muscle Energy Technique
  • Homeofascial Repatterning
  • Medical Massage Techniques

In Fascia Therapy sessions, the therapist and client work together to unwind stuck fascial strain and patterns. This work is done in sports clothes made for easy movement so the client is able to actively engage as the therapist works on releasing fascia. Because fascia is an extremely innervated organ, the release may create burning, tingling, stinging or heat sensations. This is normal, but approached with trauma informed care. The fascia therapist will create clear avenues for the client to communicate if they need modification or a pause.. 

Our fascia is almost like a full bodysuit. This means, when there is strain in one area, it will most likely pull on other areas. You may come in for a fascia therapy session looking to relieve your low back pain and your therapist may spend most of the session on your feet. Often, once the main source of the full body distortion ( in this case, the feet ) is rectified, the residual pains (the low back) will reduce significantly. This type of bodywork will allow for thorough, long lasting and true pain relief. 

After each session, your fascia therapist will advise you of some new body awareness modifications to help support your release. This is very important to sustain the effects of the fascia release. She/he will also help validate the emotions that come up for you as your tissues release old stories.

Emotional Release

Fascia is your story body. It remembers every moment of your life and is informed by the genetic shifts in your ancestor’s bodies. Each experience you have had elicits an emotion that pulls your body into an appropriate position to fully embody that expression. When we limit our self expression, the expression of our family story, or aren’t capable of fully processing the moment, our body holds that position as a reminder to our intuitive selves that we must guard before entering that type of situation again. 

Fascia is the processing ground for our experiences. If the anger of a situation is too much to cope with, your body will conveniently guard around that emotion and hold it until you are ready. Sometimes, when releasing fascia, the emotional stories of your past may surface. This brings about an opportunity for you to observe the emotional pattern from your current perspective so you can transmute the energy around it and create new coping tools if necessary. 

Fascia massage therapy is an excellent modality to help move beyond fear and anxiety, transmuting trauma and releasing emotions that no longer serve you. 

Filling the Gap

Much like the way fascia fills the space between every cell in our bodies, fascia fills the gaps in our quest to understand many illnesses and pain disorders, and fascia massage gives us an incredible tool to overcome these limitations.. Many with diagnoses like fibromyalgia, CRPS, POTS, EDS, IBS, endometriosis and more find drastic relief with trauma informed fascia work.

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