Would it surprise you learn that the gentle movement of tissue in your neck could tug, like a puppet on a string, on the tissue in your ankles?
For example, maybe you have an old football injury in your right shoulder.
Overtime, the muscles along your spine and between your shoulder blades begin to tighten. One side is tighter than the other. This leads to one hip sitting just a little higher than the other, creating a slight torque in how you walk and in how you stand.
Ten years later, you may have hip pain and knee pain, which are both related to that old shoulder injury. Except in your mind, they might seem completely unrelated.
Often, we think that pain in the body has something to do with the structures immediately surrounding the area of pain. This is natural. Even medical doctors will inject a joint with local cortisone, which is an anti-inflammatory, in order to treat joint pain.
If you could take a microscope and peer between layers of muscle, bone, and flesh, you would see delicate fibers crossing this way and that. This is fascia.
Fascia is a type of connective tissue that resembles semi-liquid threads of cotton candy. However, unlike cotton candy, there is a type order and organization to fascial tissue that some physical therapists use to affect the entire body.
So far, we have identified seven continuous networks of fascial tissue.
- Most of these networks span the entire body.
- While they span the entire body, each network is limited to certain muscle groups that are involved with specific movements.
- For example, bending over to pick up something from the floor activates a network of fascia called the superficial back line.
- The superficial back line involves muscles found in the back of the neck, along either side of the spine, down the backs of the legs, and into the connective tissue that attaches to the heel. (1)
Don’t believe that all these muscles are connected? Go ahead and reach your fingers down to the floor. You will be able to feel the muscles that this plane of fascia unites!
Jean-Pierre Barral, a French Osteopath and Physical Therapist, spent much of his early career investigating pain, its origins, and the best manual manipulation techniques to relieve it.
Barral found that he could make remarkable improvement in musculoskeletal pain by manipulating, or massaging, the abdominal cavity. This is because:
- Fascial connective tissue also surrounds the internal organs in the abdominal cavity.
- The fascia that surrounds the organs has a direct relationship with the fascial planes that run through the muscles and tendons.
- Microscopic lines of fascial proteins extend into the very cell itself.
Through Barral’s research and the work of other like-minded individuals, we now know that it is possible for fascial tissue to get thick and fibrous. This can happen anywhere in the body.
Just like the gears of a bicycle, fascia can get stuck. Over time, this stickiness develops into something called an adhesion. An adhesion is another way of describing a gluey and tangled mess of fascial threads.
In the process of his own personal study with patients and colleges, Barral invented something that is practiced throughout the United States: Visceral Massage.
The viscera are the internal organs that are mainly found in the abdominal cavity. This means the liver, stomach, intestines, kidneys, some endocrine glands, and even the diaphragm.
When performing Visceral Massage, a practitioner frees up places of adhesion in the abdominal cavity. It turns out that adhesion of fascial tissue around internal organs can create all sorts of musculoskeletal pain.
Not only does Visceral Massage decrease pain in the body, but it also:
- Locates problems in seemingly remote areas of the body.
- Improves organ function and efficiency.
- Mitigates the negative effects that stress can have on the physical body.
- Enhances muscle and joint movement.
- Influences metabolism.
What to Remember Most About This Article:
It may surprise you to learn that when it comes to pain, every element of your body is related. Fascial tissue runs from your head to your feet in one continuous network; so far, seven networks of fascial tissue have been identified. Each network spans the entire body and is limited to certain muscle groups that are responsible for specific movements.
Research has shown that fascial tissue can get thick and fibrous, causing stickiness anywhere in the body. The use of Visceral Massage will gently manipulate fascia around organs to affect the seven networks of connective tissue located in major muscle groups. Visceral Massage can be used to decrease chronic pain, improve organic efficiency, enhance muscle and joint movement, and even improve metabolism.
- Meyers, Thomas. Anatomy Trains. Churchill Livingstone: Elsevier, 2001.
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