Monday, September 25, 2006

Myofascial Massage

It seems like there is quite a bit of confusion about what myofascial therapy out there, but I think I've got it figured out. I had thought this was the same as trigger point massage, but it actually deals with the muscle covering rather than the muscle itself.

Trigger points are chemically maintained contractions in the muscle and massage that moves these chemicals out and reestablishes proper blood flow is trigger point massage.

Myofascial massage is different. Its purpose is to restore the flexibility of the covering around the muscles, which is called the fascia. When a muscle is inactive for long periods or not properly stretched after an injury heals, collagen can cause the fibers of this covering to become stuck together.

This sticking makes it difficult for each fiber to stretch to its full length. These fibers sticking together can form hard tissue where a supple covering used to be. The fascia can't expand laterally as much either, so muscles can't contract as easily. The muscle does not have as much room as it once did. Both strength and range of motion are lost.

Over time, inactivity leads to more collagen binding the fibers until the fascia feels more like a cord than a muscle. The muscle inside has to work against the hard covering to stretch or contract.

The hips and shoulders are a common place to find this hardened muscle coverings. Myofascial massage focuses on unsticking the strands and this is done by stroking ACROSS the width of the muscle so that the collagen between the fascia fibers is loosened.

Stretching the muscle immediately after the massage should break the collagen bonds further. Regular stretching of the muscle keeps the fibers from resticking.

It seems to me that myofascial problems can contribute to the persistence of trigger points. Both of these conditions inhibit proper alignment and function and reinforce each other. Tackling both problems if you have them is important.

Check this article for a closer look at therapy for the fascia.


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