Category Archives: Myofascial Release

Myofascial Release and Breast Health

The following is excerpted from an article by Dr. Carol Davis:

New information reported by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, (Ann.Rev.Cell Biol. 2006,22:287-309) University of California, San Francisco,(J.Cell Physiol 227, 1553-1560) and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, (J.Bio.Chem 288(18)2013: 12722-12732;May 2013) among other prestigious universities, sheds important information on what happens when normal breast tissue becomes a cancer tumor. This new information, coupled with an understanding of how we can positively change breast tissue with our hands, directs us to an improved practice of self breast examination.

Research findings presented in December, 2012, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Cell Biology in San Francisco, reported that, for the first time, science has shown how “mechanical forces alone can revert and stop the out-of-control growth of cancer cells…even though the genetic mutations responsible for the malignancy remain.” (Science Daily, 17 December, 2012)

Breast cancer researcher and Distinguished Scientist, Mina Bissell, showed from her studies at Berkeley that mammary tumor cells, when placed within normal growth medium, will continue to grow into a larger tumor. However, when she and her team manipulated the surrounding environment of the tumor cells in the petri dish by growing the tumor cells in a “gelatin –like substance that had been injected into flexible silicone chambers,” the compressed tumor cells reverted back to normal. This petri dish growth medium mimicked the extracelluar matrix of healthy, mobile breast fascia which surrounds every breast cell. It turns out that the malignant cells had not “forgotten how to be healthy; they just needed the right cues (from the environment) to guide them back into a healthy growth pattern.” In sum, a breast cancer tumor is not “doomed to become a malignant tumor, but its fate is dependent on its surrounding environment,” or the fascia. The fascia has to be mobile and flexible (like silicon) and allow space enough for the cells to organize themselves in relation to one another, and to bio-chemically communicate with each other.

What is fascia? Another name for “connective tissue,” fascia is a living spider web-like tissue that is the environment of every one of our 50-75 trillion cells. Not only does it surround and separate cells, organs and our muscles from each other, all our cells are embedded within this tissue – our brains, our muscles, our hearts and stomachs, and, yes, our breasts.

And this fascia tissue goes from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet in one continuous web that helps hold us all together structurally. Over time, the Jello-like ground substance dehydrates and becomes stiffer, less web-like and more “pancake” like, or even rope-like, sticking together to form rigid fascial restrictions. These fascial restrictions interfere with cells being able to communicate with one another and organize themselves into a normal pattern. Fascial restrictions can also congeal around fluid and form cysts and fibroid type tumors that press on pain sensitive structures and cause symptoms throughout the body. Many women feel these fibroid cysts every month when they do their self beast examination, and have been told that fibrous breasts are more likely to show tumor growth than non – fibrous breasts.

With this new information, we now can glimpse how we might contribute to the health of our breasts, and hopefully reduce the likelihood that normal breast cells will transform into tumor cells. 

Videos to show you how to protect your breasts with myofascial release:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWRuS9xAbMo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4QrvlwtBOU

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Extend The Career of Your Equine Athlete

Many riders tell me their horse feels off when they first get on, but works out of it. In some cases, this could be the sign of something serious needing further investigation.  Soreness can disappear as the horse warms up, and then reappear a few hours after the work out. The reason is that soft tissue injuries almost always cause more pain when they are cold, because that is when the muscles are tightest. As the muscles warm up, they stretch out and send fewer pain signals.  After the work out, all the soft tissue cools down and tightens again, often adding a few more muscle fibers to the tight area. You can see how, over time, this scenario can turn into more pain and escalate into an injury requiring a long lay-up.

Just because an injured area feels better after it warms up doesn’t mean that everything is okay. Stiffness and pain mean something, especially if they create a pattern over time. That is not to say that all muscle soreness is bad. Some aches are inevitable in becoming fit.

Sports massage for your horse can help ease soreness and pinpoint areas that are prone to tightness. Massage is helpful both before and after (after the horse has cooled down; I never massage right after a workout) exercise.

Massage therapy benefits the body in ways that most warm-up routines fail to do. Over time, select muscles may tighten and shorten. This greatly endangers the body, and unfortunately, an athlete is rarely aware of it until after an injury has occurred. A further benefit of regular sessions is that oxygen flow is naturally improved, which creates healthier conditions for muscles, optimizing body tissue. Increasing the flexibility in soft tissue can greatly reduce the incidence of injury.

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Benefits of Myofascial Manipulation

Fascia is still a medical mystery. In October, 2007, more than 100 scientists from around the world convened in Boston, Massachusetts to discuss the latest research on fascia: an enigmatic, gauze-like matrix of connective tissue that envelopes the muscles, surrounds the nerves and swathes the organs in a body-wide-web of fibrous collagen. But the researchers had some unlikely company. Also in attendance, and outnumbering researchers 5:1, was a group of alternative-medicine practitioners with a mutual interest in fascia. United by their fascination with this medically neglected tissue, the two camps comprised the attendees of the first-ever International Fascia Research Congress.

Ida Rolf , the founder of the Rolf Institute of Structural Integration, described her work on organizing the body as this:  Rolfing works on the web-like network of connective tissues, called fascia, to release, realign, and balance the whole body, potentially resolving discomfort, reducing compensations and alleviating pain.”

For decades, anatomical dissections and representations have presented the body as stripped of its fascial tissues, and the majority of physiology textbooks make little mention of it. “Most scientists,” says Wallace Sampson, alternative medicine skeptic and professor emeritus at Stanford University, “even those wary of alternative therapies, admit that the field of fascia research is a field of neglect, and remains sorely under-investigated.”

The basic concepts of myofascial release are these:

1. The body functions as a total biologic unit

2. The body possesses self-healing and self-regulatory mechanisms

3. Structure and function are interrelated, and

4. Abnormal pressure in one part of the body produces abnormal pressures and strains upon other parts of the body.

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What is the Secret to Horse Show Success?

The number one cause of injury is overuse: working too much, too fast, too soon, or too often. As riders, it is a huge responsibility to protect your horse from these training errors.  It is tempting to overdo it when there are shows you want to go to, or if you have a young and talented horse. There is a limit to how much training the body can absorb. Rest and recovery are as important as hard work.  Realigning the body with massage therapy is another key to preventing injuries.  Flexibility is an important indicator in the prevention of injuries. The horses I know that avoid injuries and are at the top of the leader board  are the ones who are on a carefully planned fitness program, have superior nutrition, regular body work, are ridden on good footing, and have knowledgeable farriers.

Pain is a warning signal that needs to be listened to. Pain is an important signal that something is about to go very wrong. If you saddle up your horse and he has a strong reaction, pay attention to that. If your horse starts refusing jumps, listen to him. If your horse comes out of the stall very stiff, or is taking longer to warm up, there is discomfort present. If dealt with early, many sources of pain can be alleviated through deep massage. If pain signals are ignored, they will inevitably get worse. Something minor can lead to something very serious, or permanent,  in a muscle, tendon, ligament, or joint. When in doubt, use the cold laser, or have body work done. Needless suffering can very often be avoided.

Once an injury occurs, scar tissue forms as it heals. This tissue is not as elastic as the original and thus is more prone to re-injury. As I keep saying, prevention is the key to a long and successful athletic career.

 

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Releasing Trigger Points

Trigger points are tight spots within the muscle (not at the ends or attachments as in stress points) that cause pain, sensitivity, tingling, burning, or weakness.  Trigger point therapy causes the muscle to have a twitch response, which resets and relaxes the muscle. This can be uncomfortable for a moment, but the results are worth it. Reduction or elimination of pain and improved range of motion can be seen and felt immediately.

Another way to release trigger points is through myofascial release. Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves. Fascia has multiple functions. It holds some structures together, providing stability.  It allows others to glide and move freely.

Trigger points can be caused by scar tissue, strain from repetitive movement, bad posture, poor nutrition, or injury. The most effective way to remove trigger points is through manual pressure. When the trigger point is released, the fascia will once again move smoothly over the muscle, pain will be reduced or eliminated, and range of motion will be increased.

Cold laser therapy can also relieve muscle pain caused by trigger points, and improve circulation.

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Is All Pain Bad?

Pain is a valuable and natural tool that notifies us when there is a condition that needs tending to.  Immediately taking or administering (in the case of our animals) painkilling medicine without first reflecting on what message the pain is sending is not useful. The medication will temporarily treat the pain, with side effects, but whatever caused the pain is most likely still there. I prefer a cure to treatment!

Pain is not a disease. Pain is a symptom.

Muscles have two major functions: they contract to create motion, and relax to return to its full length and allow another muscle to pull in the opposite direction.  No other tissue in the body does this.  Muscles move bones that are attached by tendons. To move bones back to their starting points, the muscle that made the movement has to relax so the opposite muscle in the pair to bring the bones back to resting position.

What happens if this dance doesn’t run smoothly? If the first muscle doesn’t fully relax, the bones cannot return to their restful, or healthy postural position. Alignment and balance are then adversely affected. Stiffness and immobility (lameness) gain control of the body, robbing it of strength, stamina, and graceful movement. When the body is balanced (the massage work I do is called body balancing) it is in a state of health.  When postural balance is restored, pain symptoms disappear.

I recently worked on a mare that looked to be in pain in her front end. One leg was twisted so that her hoof pointed in. Her walk looked painful as well. I found an area of very tight muscles in one shoulder (I have no idea how they got like that. This was my first meeting with her.) It did not take long for her whole posture to change. Her leg starting to turn until it was fairly straight. At the end of her bodywork session I asked to see her walk, and she just strutted out of the barn. We were all smiles, and once again I was elated to see an animal relieved of pain just by re-balancing some tight muscles.  A week later I heard from the owner that the mare is moving well.

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Is Your Horse Heavy on the Forehand?

The goal in riding, in our bodies, and our horses, is balance.  Poor balance and posture is a symptom that the body is stiff and in pain.  A horse that is heavy on the forehand is a horse with bad posture. An uneven gait is often the result of bad posture.

I worked on a horse recently that was so downhill it looked like it’s chest was sinking to its knees. His rider said she was tired of having to hold him up, of having him lean on her.  I found his pectoral muscles to be tight but stretched out.  The pectoral muscles support the rib cage, and if they are stuck in an extended position, if they have not contracted back to a good postural balance, it is impossible to elevate the forehand. Trying to do collected movements on this guy was a losing battle.  He was severely limited by his weak and inflexible muscles.

There is a massage technique for raising the chest and I spent quite some time and effort trying it. At first I got nowhere. I had to go back and work more on the pectoral muscles (there are four) before he was ready to be lifted.  The second or third time around I started to see the withers and back raise just a bit.

 

This is the beginning. It will take a few sessions and good riding to reverse the effects of bad posture in this teenaged horse. I am confident that it will happen. The horse was relaxed and happy at the end of the session and I got a good report of a comfortable and relaxed ride today.  Working towards good posture and flexibility will be the key to prevent injuries that can occur when a horse is heavy on his forehand. With posture restored, horses feel more tranquil and less stressed. Postural balance is good for the mind as well as the body!

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Improve Range of Motion and Reduce Pain

No body has to live in pain from injury, arthritis, back pain, sciatica. That sounds like a radical statement but there are many therapies to address chronic pain.  Myofascial Release is a soft tissue therapy designed to change and improve the health of the fascia. Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the body.

Fascia literally holds us together.  When we encounter fascial and muscle dysfunction, the result is usually pain and discomfort, loss of range of motion in our bodies ,and a subsequent loss of well-being and quality of life.

When the fascia gets bunched, similar to plastic Saran wrap for example, it can bind down on nerves, blood vessels and organs and thus cause restriction and pain.

Because the fascia cannot be detected on X-ray, CT ,or MRI ,scans it is often the reason for unidentified discomfort.

Myofascial Release breaks down scar tissue, relaxes muscles, and restores good posture. It is used with great success to target chronic pain, sometimes in only a few sessions. I have been working on many horses lately that have been recovering from injuries. In just a few sessions, we are seeing  better joint flexibility and range of motion. Instead of an angular, disjointed profile, the body has a harmonious, flowing appearance.

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Restoring Harmony to the Equine Body

When there is an imbalance in the  alignment of the body, the result is aches and pains.  The pains lead to a learned response from muscles to try and avoid the discomfort, further distorting the body.  When I watch a horse walk, I look for all the clues that show which muscles are tight and causing asymmetry . The massage I do works to lengthen the overly tight muscles, and to help the extended muscles to contract in order to bring the two sides of the horse into balance.

Any repetitive motion creates muscle and tissue shortening. Eventually the torso becomes crooked, which creates restrictions and pain. What I do is a number of techniques to release muscle shortening , spasms ,and adhesions that may have occurred as a result of injury. To lengthen tissue, to restore length of motion, is my goal with each equine athlete.

Many people give their horse time off when it shows signs of muscle soreness or tension. Rest is important, but if there are knots in the muscle fibers, they will still be there no matter how much rest the horse has. Those knots have to be manually removed. You will see the results immediately, as your horse moves with a new fluidity.

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How to Reduce the Risk of Injury

What if I told you there was a simple way to reduce the risk of injury, increase mobility and flexibility, and increase blood flow to muscles? Before a workout or a horse show event, myofascial release can optimize your performance, and that of your horse, and greatly reduce the risk of strains, sprains, fractures,  or tears.

Restrictions and tensions of the soft tissue (muscle, fascia)  do not show up on standard hospital imaging and many patients  (both human and animal) suffer pain and injury because their pain cannot be diagnosed.

If a muscle is tight or stiff, moving it too fast can result in an injury. Fascia wraps around the entire muscle and every soft tissue in the body. When properly softened and stretched through massage, the entire structure of the body can function smoothly and safely. The investment of pre-activity body work can save months of costly rehab.

 

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