Having fun with Fascial Fusion creative fascial techniques that get results
As Myofascial Release and working with fascia becomes ever more popular in the UK, the inevitable question arises “Which are the best and most effective fascial techniques to learn?” The question reminds me of the old adage: Patient: “Doctor, doctor what are the best exercises to do?” Doctor: “The ones that you do!”
In this little snippet lies a fundamental truth –the techniques that are likely to be the most successful are “the ones that you do” i.e.:
those skills that you learn well, use in your practice, and feel passionate about. My own preference is an eclectic Fascial Fusion where I blend different fascial techniques to gain the best result; adapting the technique and the approach for the client and their pain situation. This keeps my bodywork fresh, fun and creative – one of my very first massage teachers said to me many years ago “I have to constantly find ways to not let myself get bored with massage”. I feel that this is so true – as bodyworkers we need to make sure we don’t get into a rut; to keep our bodywork alive by experimenting with different approaches, having fun with the body, constantly seeing what works and what doesn’t work, blending and improvising, using technique, anatomy and intuition in equal doses.
I often quote to my students the great saying “One who works with the hands is a labourer; one who works with the hands and the head is a craftsman; one who works with the hands and the head and the heart is an artist” (St Francis of Assisi). This pretty much sums up my approach to bodywork in general; massage and bodywork are to me always an art, something that touches and brings out one’s fundamental creativity. With fascial work, all the different fascial approaches have their own strengths and a combination can be incredibly powerful, that great fusion of “the hands, the head and the heart”
Overview of different fascial approaches:
In my clinic I have successfully used fascial techniques to treat pain issues such as low back pain, sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, RSI, sporting injuries, rotator cuff problems, fibromyalgia and ME, pelvic and menstrual problems, IBS, and headaches. Including fascial work into your existing bodywork ‘toolbox’ will without a doubt enable you to get results more quickly and easily.
There are many techniques that primarily focus on the fascia. Techniques are often referred to as ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’.
In the direct method we have a clear concept of where we want the tissue to go to produce a certain effect. This is used in Rolfing and SI (Structural Integration) techniques where we wish to produce optimal alignment in the body.
Indirect release is the term applied to releases in which the practitioner follows the direction of ease in the client’s tissues rather than working
directly on the restriction first. This is similar to releasing a stuck drawer by pushing it in first.
MFR, cranial and visceral work use this approach
(although not exclusively). Some of the most well-known fascial approaches
Rolfing or SI as developed by Ida Rolf in the 1960s. Rolfing seeks to re-establish proper vertical alignment in the body by manipulating the myofascial tissue so that the fascia elongates and glides rather than shortens and adheres. SI work aims to literally change the shape of the body into more optimal alignment thereby easing pain and dysfunction caused by fascial restrictions. SI work typically takes the body through a series of sessions – 10 in the original ‘Rolfing recipe’; starting at the feet and working the way up the body to achieve balance and ease. SI
☯ Systematic ‘body reading’ to identify imbalances;
☯ A series of deep direct fascial techniques that incorporate work with fists, fingers, forearms together with active movement by the client. This
follows one of Ida Rolf’s great dictums ‘Put it where it belongs and call for movement.’
Other Structural Integration Approaches
Other SI approaches include KMI (Kinesis Movement Integration) as developed by Tom Myers; Hellerwork (includes dialoguing and emotional work) and many others. All of these approaches are based heavily on Rolf’s original work and retain most of her original concepts and techniques. For example, KMI uses 12 sessions rather than 10 to incorporate Tom Myers new ideas around the way fascia links together (Anatomy Trains). However, the techniques are broadly identical to those used by Rolfers and SI practitioners from different schools share more similarities than differences in the way they work.
Myofascial Release (MFR): originally coined by the osteopath Robert Ward, in the 1980s the term MFR was adopted by a physical therapist John Barnes to describe his method of freeing restrictions in the myofascial system. The overall intention of MFR is to relieve pain, resolve structural dysfunction, restore function and mobility and release emotional trauma. MFR techniques rely heavily on the ability of the practitioner to use the ‘listening touch’; tune into the tissues and follow the fascia to where restrictions are held. Techniques taught in this approach usually include cross hand stretches, arm and leg pulls and many others. Some of the techniques taught have a cross over with those from craniosacral therapy (i.e.: transverse fascial plane releases) or in some cases more direct
approaches. Both MFR and structural integration approaches focus mainly on the myofascia – the fascia running through and around the muscles (‘myo’). An all-round fascial practitioner would also be proficient at techniques that seek to identify and release deeper fascial restrictions:
Visceral Manipulation: developed by the visionary French osteopath Jean-Pierre Barrall, sees restrictions in the viscera (organs) as primary to other types of pain including musculo skeletal restrictions. Through tuning into the fascial restrictions around the organs with a sophisticated sense of ‘listening touch’, excellent results can be gained.
Craniosacral Therapy: Works on the deepest layers of the fascia: the dura mater surrounding the brain and spinal cord. William Sutherland was the osteopath who pioneered this approach to healing by recognising the potential of the cranial bones to move; John Upledger has popularised craniosacral therapy in the last few decades.
Combining different approaches – the creative principles of Fascial Fusion
So how can we start to combine all these different approaches into our treatments for optimal results? Here are a few simple principles to get you on your way:
1. Don’t be afraid to use more than one system of assessment: All the different systems have different ways of assessing where the fascial tissues are restricted. Structural integration approaches use body reading, MFR uses a more simplified form of body reading together with sensitivity of listening touch to tune into restrictions. Visceral work uses a sophisticated tool of ‘general listening’ – a hand placed lightly on the top of the head to tune into general restrictions – this is then fine-tuned
through various ‘local listening’ techniques. Cranial work uses ‘arcing’ techniques to tune into
primary restrictions. I find that using a combination of assessment techniques helps me
to develop my skills in being able to tune into where the major fascial restrictions can be found.
All of the above assessment techniques can be easily and efficiently integrated into your initial
2. Think of techniques as ‘templates’ rather than ‘absolute’. When you are first learning it is natural to get lost in the absolute detail of how to do a particular technique, i.e.: how many times
do I do that stroke; how exactly do I hold the arm on an arm pull. As you become more proficient
you realise that techniques are actually only ‘templates’ that can be played with – the dictionary defines a template as ‘something that serves as a master or pattern from which other similar things can be made’. So it is with techniques; you can adapt all you fascial skills to
integrate ideas from all the different approaches.
3. The supremacy of ‘listening touch’. I find that whatever fascial techniques you are using can all be enhanced by improving your sense of listening touch – the ability to tune into the tissues and sense where restrictions are and when you get a release.
4. Combine the best ideas from different approaches: Once you are familiar with different styles of fascial work, experiment with combining the best ideas. For example, why not combine the idea of active client movement used in SI with a cross hand stretch? Or use the bodyreading principles to see if there has been a change in client alignment through cranial or visceral work?
5. If one fascial technique doesn’t work use a different one: Sounds obvious but different techniques may be more or less effective depending on the tissue and the situation. If your cross hand stretch isn’t working to release stuck fascia in the low back, try some direct structural integration techniques. If that doesn’t work maybe you need to use a cranial technique to release the dural tube.
I hope this has given you some ideas and confidence to play with integration of different fascial approaches. Fascia work is fun, fun, fun and gets astounding results. Keep your work fresh and exciting and you will always have clients coming back for more.
© Rachel Fairweather is co-founder and director of the Jing Institute of
Advanced Massage. Based in Brighton, London and Edinburgh the Jing
Institute runs a variety of courses in advanced techniques to help you build
the career you desire. Our 9-day comprehensive fascial training (taken in 3
separate modules) is unique in offering hands on skills in all the major
approaches described above. For the therapist who wants to be the best they
can possibly be, we offer a BTEC level 6 (degree level) in advanced clinical and
sports massage – the highest level of massage training in the UK.
Please call or check our website for further information and course dates.
www.jingmassage.com email@example.com Tel: 01273 628942