Sep 12

The Chicken or the Egg?

The Chicken or the Egg?

As much as farmers may not know which came first: the chicken or the egg, Massage Therapists often debate which caused the tightness first: the muscle or the fascia. Fascia is connective tissue containing collagen fibres that surround every muscle, bone, organ, blood vessel, and nerve. Fascia binds all of these structures together, while still allowing them smooth movement over one another. If fascia becomes tight or dehydrated, this smooth movement can become impaired; limiting range of motion and even causing pain.

This impairment can be a result of shortened or “knotted” fascia caused by the following:

Internal or external trauma causing scar tissue, whether it be surgery affecting the external and/or internal body, or a strain or sprain. This will “knot” the fascia, pulling surrounding fascia and body structures (muscles and bone) towards the knotted fascia. This can also cause Trigger Point referral pain.

Repetitive strain injury, which simply means applying the same movement again and again over time. Examples: Throwing a ball or swinging a tennis racquet, bending and lifting.

Posture. Examples: Sitting at a computer desk, tilting head-to-shoulder to talk on the phone. This will shorten the fascia, constantly pulling it and surrounding structures back into that learned position.

Don’t panic yet! There is hope. Fascia can be realigned and scar tissue can be diminished (even in superficial appearance) by Massage Therapy techniques. The “crunchies” we find and sometimes painfully try to “elbow away” for you, is this knotted fascia. Other techniques are more static in application to allow the fascia time to respond and “loosen” on its own; what we call a Myofascial Release.

To save time and minimize pain, an effective technique to realign fascia is Cupping Massage Therapy. The tradition originated in ancient China and involved glass cups and fire (to expel the oxygen from the cup). Modern times include glass and plastic cups (no fire). The effects are the same, but the purpose somewhat updated. Whereas realigning ones energy was the ancient, and still modern, purpose – the effects on releasing toxins, blood, and materials caught in knotted fascia while also elongating the fascia to allow greater range of motion, mobility, and decreasing pain is now the clinical practice. In turn, the surrounding muscles are elongated, as well leaving the same positive effects.

The treatment involves placing the cups on the skin and “sucking” the air out, which pulls the skin and fascia into the cup releasing the tension, caught materials, and realigns the fascia. Feeling a slight “burn” or “tingling” is normal and actually expected, as it is the feeling of the fascia releasing. Be prepared to tell your friends you just got into a fight with an octopus, because the cups will leave suction cup marks (red in colour as blood capillaries have been broken and materials released). This can last 2 days to 2 weeks depending on the person.

Since fascia acts as one structure, attached from head to toe, tight fascia in one’s neck can create a fascial pull so long the pain can be felt in one’s foot. I know, you think I must be crazy, but it’s true! If the chicken is the muscle and the egg is the fascia, I am a firm believer the egg came first. So, whatever your musculoskeletal condition may be – pain, strain, or range of motion gain, give Myofascial Release and Cupping a try!

Serena Dixon, RMT