Everything You Need to Know About Fascia and Fascial Treatment
We interviewed Yulia Agarkov, Registered Massage Therapist, to learn more about fascial treatment in her Registered Massage Therapy practice.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is like the sheath of a sausage: the sheath is the fascia, and the sausage filling is your organ. For example, each of your muscles, your stomach, your heart, your nerves, and your joints are enveloped in fascia.
More technically, fascia is all the collagenous-based soft tissues in the body. It includes the cells that create and maintain that network of collagenous tissues. Fascia forms a transparent network of casing and sheets around every functional unit in the body, resembling a 3-D body stocking with a place for everything in it.
Can Fascia Cause Pain?
When fascia is in a healthy state, it is smooth, supple and slides easily. It allows us to move and stretch in any direction, returning back easily to its normal state.
Fascia has about 12 different types of nerve endings embedded in it. That means you can feel pressure and tension in your fascia. So if it’s tight or shrunk, it can hurt when you move.
When your fascia is inactive, fibers are “cemented” into place. Your fascia can become tightened or shrunk from lots of things, including:
- Holding a position for a long time (e.g. slouching behind a computer all day),
- Scar tissue that forms after surgery or injury; or
- Repetitive movements (including repetitive injuries at workplace, sports, etc.).
Because fascia connects everything and holds it in place, our therapists often treat fascia when their patients complain of aches and pains. For instance, our Registered Massage Therapist Yulia Agarkov has completed advanced training in fascial treatment. And our physiotherapist Dana Bubenko has completed advanced training in visceral manipulation, which also treats fascia and connective tissue (Learn more about visceral manipulation here).
What is Fascial Treatment?
Fascial treatment is a hands-on technique that can be used when you suspect fascia restriction is causing your pain. Fascial treatment targets fascia specifically, not muscles or joints. It can be used in the same massage therapy session as techniques that target muscles or joints, but it’s a separate technique.
What are the Benefits of Fascial Treatment?
- Reduces pain (as fascia is thought to be the single most pain sensitive tissue in the body);
- Improves your range of motion and comfort;
- Helps separate fascial adhesions;
- Improves fluid movement in the body;
- Activates nutrient and waste transportation; and
- Creates a good environment for tissue repair.
It’s a great option to try if treatment for your muscles and joints just isn’t helping.
What can I expect with Fascial Treatment?
"From the outside, it looks like the therapist isn’t doing anything. You’ll probably see and feel very minimal movement" says Yulia Agarkov. "But what I’m doing during fascial treatment is applying pressure in particular area. I use my hands to get your fascia to move throughout it range of movement.
"I don’t move any of your joints, except sometimes at the end of the treatment, to get more range of fascial movement."
Fascial treatment generally lasts a few minutes, as one part of a 60-minute session with a Registered Massage Therapist.
What does Fascial Treatment Feel Like?
"Most of the time, you only feel pressure," says Yulia. "But you may also feel a gentle burning, pulsing, heat, cold, twitching, itching, or lightness of a body part or limb. This is normal."
With any massage therapy or physiotherapy treatment, you’re the boss. So if you’re not tolerating fascial treatment very well, tell your therapist and they’ll stop or adjust immediately. We have several different approaches to treatment. If you don’t tolerate well one of them, we can try different one.
What Conditions is Fascial Treatment Good For?
According to Yulia, almost every condition can benefit from fascial treatment. "These days, everyone has desk jobs, and they sit in one position all day, and they often have fascial restrictions. And people who have repetitive strain injuries.
"Also, I find fascial treatment works well with clients who can’t move well due to disability or injury. For example, someone who relies on a wheelchair to get around, or someone who is waiting for surgery for months and is in too much pain to move well," says Yulia.
Do You Have to Do Fascial Treatment at Every Appointment?
"No," says Yulia. "Usually, we start with a regular massage, that targets muscles and joints. We try that for several treatments. If you are not getting the desired result, we can try fascial treatment."
Is Fascial Treatment the Same as Trigger Point Massage?
"No. Fascial treatment and trigger point massage are often confused as the same thing," says Yulia. "But fascial treatment is different, mainly because it focuses on areas, not points."
How Can You Care for Your Fascia?
- "Move it or loose it," says Yulia. "Take a few minutes first thing in the morning to roll around in bed and really stretch out, head to toe. Just like a cat after nap."
- Stay hydrated. Fascia is made of water, so drink!
- Stretch your muscles. When your muscles are chronically tight the surrounding fascia tightens along them.
- Fifteen to 20 minutes in a warm epson salt bath can help. Make sure to follow it up with ten minutes of light activity.
- Respect your body. Don't "run through an injury." It’s better to take some extra time than to set yourself up for long-term trouble.
How do I try Fascial Treatment?
Call our clinic to book an appointment with our Registered Massage Therapist Yulia Agarkov. She will do a brief assessment and customize your massage therapy appointment to you and your unique condition. If you both agree fascial treatment is right for you, she would be happy to make this part of your massage therapy session.
For visceral manipulation, contact our clinic to book an appointment with physiotherapist Dana Bubenko. Or call us to set up a FREE 15-minute phone consultation with any of our physiotherapists to discuss whether a particular treatment is right for you.
Learn more: About Fascia, Physiopedia