Fascia Up Close & Personal

Ever wonder why you feel a twinge in your toe when a massage therapist works on your neck?

Or why acupuncture points are located on areas of only connective tissue?

Or how Bruce Lee managed to pull off a “One inch punch?”

The reasoning is due to the power of fascia!

Fascia is an ‘elasto-collagenous complex’ that not only surrounds your entire body, head to toe, it surrounds every joint, every organ, every muscle, every muscle fiber, and every cell.

Fascia is like a super-futuristic, VERY strong, wet suit that holds everything in place and has an intelligence beyond our imaginations.  Because of its crystalline nature, it stores information and acts as a recorder of all our experiences.  It records our traumas, our car accidents, our trips and falls, and even our own birth…our Day 1, ground zero.

When trauma or inflammation occurs, our fascia gets dehydrated and restricts mobility, almost like saran wrap.  Just to protect and secure the site, it may even increase fascial density in the area of trauma, hardening the tissue, while further limiting movement.  

“Trauma and inflammatory responses create myofascial restrictions that can produce pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures.”

-John Barnes

Blood vessels, nerves, and lymph all weave in and out of this three dimensional fascial gauze.  Imagine what happens when the fascia in your cranium gets restricted.  This pulley system can impinge all of these transport systems in distal regions of the body.  That alone can create pain, numbness, and if ignored, the tension can be strong enough to rotate your joints and pelvis, corkscrewing your skeletal system out of alignment.

The unfortunate thing about fascia is the lack of testing in western medicine.  Restricted fascia is not visible in CAT Scans or MRIs.  Fascia is still considered “extra packaging” in most medical fields and oftentimes overlooked as the source of the problem. 

Just like “junk” DNA, fascia will be taken more seriously as our technology improves and as our minds open to new ideas.  Change takes time.

In the meantime, there are methods to work with fascia and initiate space to free up your joints and nerves.  MFR, Myofascial Release, is one method of bodywork that was introduced to me last year (2019).  Mind you, there are many kinds of MFR (AKA Soft Tissue Mobilization) out there performed by many different professionals.  Some will make you scream off the table while others will make you float.  Personally, I prefer the floating (enjoyable) method and that is what I’ll be discussing in this blog.  This non-invasive technique of MFR was developed by John Barnes over a span of 50 years.  He facilitates workshops all over the United States and has treatment facilities located in Sedona, Arizona and Malvern, Pennsylvania.

His cross-hand release method allows the fascia to release, unwind, and let go of its conditioned state.  This release increases fluid, circulation, and space in areas of restricted tension.  Once the fascia releases its grip, the transport systems are alleviated and can function at a more optimal level.

MFR is rather distinct from massage, where the person receiving this technique wears a bathing suit, or sports bra and shorts.  No lotion or oils are used, while the hand positions are light and, actually, pretty relaxing.  The practitioner can work under loose clothing, however the hands should have direct contact with the skin.  This is why minimal coverage is encouraged. 

In my experience so far using John Barnes MFR technique, I would like to recommend a few tips if you’re curious to begin working with me or a practitioner near you:

  1. Plan your session during a time when you are free from special events.  Since the goal of MFR is to loosen restrictions in the fascia and create space, the body needs time to recalibrate from this change.  A huge side effect I’ve noticed is soreness or tenderness, sometimes at the source and other times in areas that weren’t even touched during the session.
  2. Drink lots of water.  Drinking half your body weight in ounces is quite beneficial and will keep you hydrated enough to help flush out toxins that were once crystalized in your tissues.
  3. Eat lighter than usual.  Breaking down food can exhaust the body rather quickly, especially if meals are very heavy or heavily processed.  Cleaner foods will enhance the detoxification process your body will experience.
  4. Honor your emotions.  Working with fascia can bring up a lot of old memories, not to mention past traumas that need to surface and release.  Suppressing your responses to these old emotions will counteract a part of the detoxification process.
  5. Get some quiet time.  Take a stroll in a park or at a beach, anywhere in nature where you can avoid overstimulation from your daily routine of life.
  6. Provide your practitioner with feedback.  Practitioners can only help you if you’re willing to share your experience with them.  They can also help translate the language of your body when it may appear confusing or discouraging to you.  Do your best to keep your practitioner informed and be honest about the process before your next session.

Since taking MFR training, I feel this modality has introduced a fresh perspective to bodywork.  I’ve been doing massage now for 18 years and I love seeing results.  This method has given me another result-oriented approach to assisting clients, and I look forward to helping even more individuals find relief.

Who’s Next?



John Barnes MFR Seminars

Bruce Lee’s One Inch Punch