Cracks in the concrete
More so than muscle tension, tight fascia (connective tissue) seems to be the single most important issue to resolve when helping a client eliminate chronic pain and restore proper range of motion. The muscles have a relatively easy time letting go of excess tension and resetting to their correct shape once the fascia gives them room to breathe again.
The fascia gets jammed and constricted when the brain overrides the body’s pain signals over and over again. This can be physical or emotional pain. For example, writers who stare at the screen for three hours past the point of their lower back starting to throb, bodybuilders who push through another workout while their rhomboid muscles are screaming at them to stop, dancers who keep rehearsing for the performance that opens next week even though their left ankle is injured.
The fascia can also get dense and painful when traumatic experiences are stored and suppressed rather than fully lived through. When animals go through a stressful experience, they’ll often shake and shudder to experience any residual trauma and release it out of their body. But humans? We say to ourselves, “Stop shaking,” then take an anti-anxiety pill or get drunk. This action just buries the trauma deeper into the body.
What can we do when an area of our body (or a client’s body) gets so dense and tight that we feel there is almost no way in? We can slow down and increase our sensitivity in order to find cracks in the concrete. Only then can we start to let sunlight, water and air seep back in and bring nutrition to the deeper tissues.
The fascia is the soil of the musculoskeletal system — it creates the conditions for healthy bones and muscles. If a tree is diseased, you could try spraying chemicals directly on the branches (muscles), you could make sure its roots aren’t being constricted (tendons and bones), or you could look at the soil to see if a tractor tore up its layers and compacted its surface. When we talk about “root cause”, we should examine the soil, because if the soil is unhealthy, the roots and trees will be affected.
There is always a way in. Wildflowers can sprout through the tiniest cracks in concrete, establish healthy root systems, and eventually break open the dead surface above.