What Are Connective Tissues?
Connective tissue acts as a binding agent, connecting tissues together such as different muscles to one another with the most common type being loose connective tissue and coming in 3 forms: Elastic fibres are stretchable fibres made of elastin found the lungs, skin and in blood vessels such as the aorta; Collagenous fibres which contain lots of collagen molecules making up fibrils; and Reticular fibres which connect connective tissue to other tissues in the body. Another important connective tissue is Fibrous connective tissue which is found in tendons and ligaments. The reason why tendons and ligaments are tougher than muscle is because there is a larger amount of close knit collagenous fibres within them, more suitable to hold and connect structures than muscle tissue…
Other, differently known, forms of connective tissue are Adipose which stores fat, Bone which is made up of collagen and calcium phosphate giving it firmness, Cartilage which is a fibrous connective tissue and supports the ears and nose and even blood can be considered connective tissue because of its extra cellular matrix!
Fascia is the main connective tissue that holds our muscles, skin, organs and external features in position. Fascia is a type of strong, fibrous connective tissue which is made up of collagen fibres a lot like ligaments and tendons. It joins different structures together and helps adjacent structures move past each other smoothly. Fascia forms under the skin and is a form of connective tissue between the skin and muscles, holding us all in place; it is known as the ORGAN OF POSTURE and has a more predominant effect on how we stand than are muscles do…
Different Layers of Fascia
The upper layer is superficial fascia can be easily found at the hands and the skull, yet is present under our skin across the whole body. Deeper beneath this is the deep fascia which is much stronger covering muscles, protecting and separating them and helping them to glide against one another. The Subserous fascia lies between the deep layer and major organs of the body but is more flexible than the deeper layer, to hold organs in place as they expand and contract and help organs slide next to one another.
What’s all this got to do with my Massage?
As Massage Therapists, we do not only work on the muscles but we also work on loosening the fascia as this absorbs a lot of the stress and knocks that we pick up throughout our lives and if the fascia is affected in one area it can affect the rest of the body. Imagine someone pulling the corner of a duvet, the rest of the sheet is pulled tight in one direction and this has an effect of the layout of the whole structure, Connective Tissue Manipulation (CTM) can loosen the whole web of superfical fasica allowing greater movement between the skin, muscles and connecting fibres.
Pain in the fascia can be caused by muscle or connective tissue being held by tight fascia or damage can occur to the fascia itself where a contraction of fibres has been held causing a trigger point, a tight ‘knot’ of muscle fibres and connective tissues held hard. Trigger point therapy (NMT), or Myofascial Release (MFR), is a technique used by many health professionals to help stretch and loosen the fascia which will in turn release other tissues so that full motion can be restored and pain can be lessened. Trigger points can be found all over the body and on many occasions, palpating a trigger point can send referred pain to the area around the point as the connections are made through the fascial web. What the therapist will want is for the referred pain to lessen, coming back to the original area which can release the contraction in at the point. Referred pain is often felt as a result of tight fascia and any pain or stiffness around your body should be reported to your therapist so they can trace the pattern of tension, often through the structure of the fascia.
Trigger point therapy should not be performed by anyone not qualified to do so as this could cause more pain to the area. Patients should also note that some mild discomfort can be felt in the area after the release which should subside after a day or two after treatment as the swelling reduces and the tissues heal. A trained Therapist will be able to palpate just at the right level to adjust the superficial fascia before applying trigger pressure to the weak area in the structure of an adhesion, pressure is often firm yet should feel satisfying, not unpleasant.
Fascial tension can be traced from the base of the skull down to the souls of the feet, including across the abdomen and in two diamonds across the back. A CTM treatment will allow you the most natural increased mobility, release from pain, headaches, limited movement and, in some cases, digestive discomfort as the organs are allowed to relax in their space. It is a rhythmic treatment and deeply relaxing and will soon be offered as a separate treatment at YOU Massage Therapy; in the mean time book in for a Deep Tissue Massage and talk to your Therapist about the areas of tension you feel and they will be able to advise you on the pattern and offer NMT or MFR as necessary.
Fasical release can be achieved at home, the skin needs to be pulled tight, if there is little flexibility in the skin you should push and hold until tight in one direction and then the other until you get a gradual ‘bounce’. Using a spikey massage ball, which we sell in house or can be found online, can be of great benefit in releasing tight fascia.