How to Work Your Fascia to
Release Muscle Adhesions
Dealing with neck pain or a bad headache is never fun. You may attribute the problem to overworked muscles, but that may not be entirely accurate. Instead, the problem might be rooted in your fascia and the muscle adhesions that form in it.
But what are muscle adhesions, and what do they feel like? Here, we’ll take a closer look at what causes muscle adhesions and explore how to break them up for long-lasting relief.
What are Muscle Adhesions?
As the name implies, muscle adhesions (also known as "fascial adhesions" and "fibrous adhesions") are sticky fibrous fascia “clumps” that stick (adhere) together-to other strands and sheets of fascia and to the muscles.
I’ve gone deeper into what fascia is before, but to remind you, it’s the thin casing of connective tissue that holds your whole body together—your organs, blood vessels, bones, muscles, and more. And fascia penetrates all the structures as well, like a body filled with cotton candy. Fascia is made up primarily of collagen and is filled with fascial fluid.Because it stretches as you move, problems with the fascia can lead to tightening and limited mobility, as well as a host of other problems.
Adhesions form in soft tissues throughout the body as a response to aging, neglect, malnutrition, imbalances, dehydration, injury, surgery, overuse, and other forms of physical trauma and micro traumas. You can think of adhesions as internal scar tissue in the muscle. A good analogy is playing with “Saran wrap”—fold and stick it together too many times, and it will form a little sticky ball. We can have these Saran wrap-like myofascial adhesions on the muscles, between the muscles, and inside the muscles.
Muscle adhesions are one of the most common forms of physical pain, in fact, fascia is 1000X more pain-sensitive than muscles. Over time, muscle adhesions can impact your quality of life by interrupting muscle function, limiting your mobility, or decreasing strength. They can also inhibit blood flow, lymphatic flow, and nerve activity because the fascia houses these systems.
How Do Muscle Adhesions Occur?
When you undergo challenging physical exertion, you create tiny tears within the muscle, known as microtrauma. A little micro tearing in the muscle fascia is not all bad—they’re actually a natural part of your body’s healing process. Your fascia works as a protective mechanism that reacts by clamping down on the muscles to try to protect them. The fascia will rebuild itself.
The body sends collagen (i.e. fascia) to micro injury sites to clump the fibers back together and repair the tears. Most microtraumas heal this way without issue, but sometimes, if the trauma is more serious, the body’s patching job is compromised and it repairs the damaged spots too thickly. In this case, the collagen fibers clump together, and without the alignment of the natural fascia the spots become “sticky.” Say hello to a muscle adhesion. (These can easily be “brushed out”, but we'll get to that later.)
This repair site becomes scar tissue, which is essentially fascia that is less flexible than the native fascia it replaced. And, because blood and nerves run through fascia, a bad repair site will limit blood flow to the muscles and other fluids as well as nerves. Over time, muscle adhesions can increase pressure on the muscles, ligaments, and joints, which causes your body to shift out of alignment.
When this happens, you’ll experience tightness and discomfort in spots we sometimes call trigger points, especially in your shoulders, lower back, and hamstrings. These adhesions can even “spread” by getting stuck to nearby fascia. It’s the type of chain reaction that you just don’t want.
In fact, muscle adhesions can be the genesis of many health problems, including back pain, wrist pain, swollen tendons, and even head tension. Worse yet, untreated muscle adhesions can lead to serious problems.
This makes sense when you remember that fascia is the vehicle that houses nerve impulses to muscles and the transport system important for nutrients and oxygen to reach muscles. All this bunched up fascia can keep blood from getting through and block nerve signals from getting to the muscles.
Adhesions vs. Knots: What’s the Difference?
It’s common to refer to back tension as “a knot." These hard balls of tissue are painful and can be felt through the skin. Are knots in the back the same as muscle adhesions? Close, but not quite.
Muscle “knots'' aren't actually knots, but rather a clump of contracted muscles bound together by the fascia. They typically occur for the same reasons muscle adhesions do, such as overuse, stress, or injury. But, while knots are caused by fascia holding muscle fibers too tightly, muscle adhesions are ALL fascia—hink gristle in meat!
However, most of the time, when people complain about a knot in their back, the real issue is usually a fascial mess.
How to Work Your Fascia to Release Muscle Adhesions
Living with muscle adhesions can be annoying. You may experience discomfort every time you move, which in turn can lead to moving less — the worst thing for fascia. And, not only do adhesions make sections of your muscles work harder, but your other systems like joints and cartilage have to compensate, which leads to long term issues.
Some people may benefit from working with a massage therapist, physical therapist, or doctor for myofascial release to work on these trigger points and wear down the buildup of scar tissue adhesions. Healthcare professionals can perform manual therapy and demonstrate self-myofascial release techniques such as foam rolling, percussion, and roller ball. Some crossover techniques such as cupping, acupuncture, and chiropractic care may help address some muscle and fascia issues as well.
However, the best way to recover from muscle adhesions—hands down—is to do body work geared specifically for the fascia. This can be performed by a trained healthcare provider or on yourself.
The FasciaBlaster is a fascial device that delivers on-the-spot treatment to relieve minor muscle tension caused by unhealthy fascia. In fact, it’s the only therapeutic tool available to demonstrate the release of myofascial adhesions in ultrasound imaging.(1-annotate) While all forms of body work are beneficial for relief from muscle adhesions, the FasciaBlaster is a sure way to break up your adhesions and help the myofascial tissue regenerate. It’s the only tool that has been scientifically demonstrated to promote the remodeling of collagen fibers. (1- annotate)
You can use the device on bare skin with lubrication and glide it over affected areas, adding more pressure as the tissue opens. Over time, it will increase the quality of the tissue and break down any micro-scar or scar tissue to improve fascia flexibility and overall stiffness.
There’s no reason to live with muscle adhesions. A few minutes a day with the FasciaBlaster and you can turn back the hands of time and restore your body or prevent future problems.