In my massage therapy sessions with clients who are exhibiting neck stiffness or pain, I tend to employ a gentle technique known as fascial unwinding. From experience, fascial unwinding isn’t a technique that most massage therapists use, however I find it to be one of the best tools to loosen up the tension in the body.
Fascia – what is it?
Fascia is connective tissue that unifies your entire living system. It’s not just the fibrous tissue that surround our muscles (think of the sinewy stuff that we see on steaks) – it’s also in your organs, cells, tissues and the various systems of the body.
Given this, it helps to define the structure (construction and shape) of your body. It is also critical to maintaining the tension of various forces within the body, so if one part stretches than it will ensure that its matrix changes elsewhere to compensate and distribute the tension evenly throughout the body (think of a balloon full of water – if you press it then you’ll see the water bulge out somewhere else in the balloon).
What is fascial unwinding?
When your muscles are tight and stiff, your fascia is clearly under tension and bound up too.
An example of what the tension in the fascia is like when it’s tight, imagine an elastic band that you hold at both ends. With one end, keep twisting that elastic band to the point that you can’t twist it anymore. The elastic band (much like your fascia) is pretty twisted isn’t it? Now, imagine that you let go of one end – what happens? The elastic band moves in all sorts of ways and eventually gets back to its normal, untwisted state. Another example is think of a break dancer and how their legs just seem to move in all sorts of directions effortlessly! That’s what fascial unwinding is like.
My role as the therapist is to simply facilitate and support the movement of fascia and muscles by giving your body a bit of a nudge as a reminder that it’s ok to let go of the tension. The rest is purely up to you – your body will begin to move in certain ways to unwind the tension. I have no control about what will happen!
Why is it good for me?
Working with fascia is a great way to assist in returning the body back to balance from a bodywork perspective. It’s an incredibly gentle technique which leaves you feeling loose and also refreshed. Areas that can be worked with this sort of technique include the neck, arms and legs. I have also found that the more you are subjected to this sort of technique, you will eventually be able to do it yourself!