By Lilly Longshore
For years after my spinal cord injury, I lived with a constant, painful pinch on the inside of my left upper thigh where my leg joins my pelvis. All the muscle relaxers and pain meds wouldn’t make it go away. I tried repeatedly stretching in hot tubs and utilizing personal trainers and yoga instructors, years of deep tissue massage — nothing I did worked.
Then one day I was referred to Ike Anunciado, the owner of 360 Physical Therapy in Vancouver, Washington, for a frozen shoulder. He introduced me to the world of fascia release and a technique called strain counterstrain. From that day on, I have used fascia release and strain counterstrain therapies to reduce my pain all over my body and to maximize what movement I have.
What is fascia? We are all familiar with that sinewy, clear membrane on raw chicken that seems to stretch forever. We have hundreds of yards of that stuff, known as fascia, wrapping each of our 650-plus muscles and every muscle fiber, blood vessel, lymph duct, organ and nerve — from our heads to our toes. Once thought to be solely support tissue, research now shows that fascia is much more complex.
“Fascia surrounds everything,” says Anunciado, who holds a master’s in physical therapy. “It is a neural highway with many branches and connections — it flows.” Research has revealed that fascia not only supports our many organs and body structures, but it also contains the same contractile fiber as smooth muscle, as well as pain receptors and neurotransmitters. In response to trauma, fascia can contract and clamp down on muscles, vessels and organs, restricting blood flow, preventing proper function and inhibiting drainage. This causes pain.
Debbie Boe, licensed massage therapist and owner of Head2Heal Massage Therapy in Vancouver, Washington, discovered the value of fascia release through personal experience. “I was in a horrible accident,” says Boe. “Fascia work had the most profound effect for my personal healing.” She has since taken numerous courses beyond standard massage therapy requirements to hone her skills in fascia release.
“I tell people to picture themselves in a long-sleeve, long-leg, one-piece leotard,” Boe says, describing the continuity of fascia and its constrictions. “I take the tummy of the leotard, grab it i