If you've ever been a patient of mine, you have heard the term fascia or fascial adhesions. Fascial adhesions are one of the most common causes of pain in the body.
The formation of adhesions is the body’s response to injury, trauma, and overuse. These adhesions form in the soft tissues of the body, and over time, can build up to limit mobility, decrease strength, and cause pain.
In my practice, addressing these adhesions is paramount to gain any real progress with resolving back pain, sciatica, neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or even plantar fasciitis.
In this article, I wanted to share with you how to release fascial adhesions at home.
Dr. Angela Walk
Founder of Nashville Organix
What Is Fascia?
Before defining fascial adhesions, let's first look at what is fascia? Fascia is the vast network of connective tissue that runs through your whole body.
It surrounds your muscles, nerves, bones, joints and organs. It turns out that many injuries and loss of flexibility over time, including range of motion, involve the fascia.
Fascia is the connective tissue that wraps and surrounds every single thing inside of our body. When adhesion and scar tissue are present in the fascia, it causes restrictions and may feel like a giant knot in your muscle.
Now that you know what a fascial adhesion is, let's take a look at what causes them.
What Causes Fascial Adhesions?
When the load placed on the body is greater than the capacity of the body's tissues to handle that load, the result is dysfunction and strain.
Any time muscles or fascia is overworked, a repetitive strain occurs in the fascia. These strained/overworked areas endure micro-trauma.
When a microtrauma doesn’t heal completely or properly, the body creates collagen to heal the damaged tissue. The collagen fibers clump together into an unnatural "sticky" state.
The fascia begins to “stick” to other tissues, which creates tension from those tissues pulling on each other. You can think of fascia like cling wrap -- it clings to itself and other tissues until you can flatten it out.
Scar tissue is also referred to as fascial adhesions, fascial restrictions, or simply “knots.” Think of scar tissue as the body’s duct tape.
As these adhesions form, they start to affect the normal function of the muscles and fascia.
In fact, they will often lead to pain, tightness, lack of flexibility, muscle weakness, compromised muscle endurance, restricted joint motion, and diminished blood flow.
Adhesions remain until they are removed. Rest, ice, stretching, and ibuprofen will not make them go away! You may get some temporary relief, but once you resume your activities, the issue will make itself known once again.
How Do You Get Rid Of Fascial Adhesions & Scar Tissue
The goal of Self Fascial Release is to stretch and loosen the fascia so the underlying tissue can move freely, restore blood flow (blood doesn’t flow too well through knots, as you can imagine) and reestablish proper function.
In effect, what we are doing is irritating the tissue to produce a chemical response. The chemicals produced are what begin the healing process; which is why soft tissue work is often painful and can leave you feeling similar to a workout the next day.
The best method to remove fascial adhesions in with a specific instrument. I have used Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) in my practice for many years with great success.
I have extensive training in these techniques including Graston Technique and Gua Sha. It involves the use of a stainless steel instrument or stone to "scrape" away scar tissue adhesions.
These tools greatly assist in soft tissue mobilization and improve blood flow to the affected area and in turn, release adhesions in the muscle tissue and create healing.
How To Break Up Fascial Adhesions At Home
This technique involves the use of a stainless steel instrument or stone to "scrape" away scar tissue adhesions. These tools greatly assist in soft tissue mobilization and improve blood flow to the affected area and in turn, release adhesions in the muscle tissue and create healing.
Start by applying an emollient such as lotion, coconut oil, or essential oils to each of the soft tissues/muscles you are releasing.
Apply light pressure with the massage tool to the soft tissues and determine if they are tender, hardened, or feel restricted.
Now, begin to scrape along the direction of the muscle fiber with unidirectional strokes.
When you locate an area of tenderness, continue for 10-15 seconds then move to the next tender area.
Once you feel the muscles and tendons you are working getting warmer and pinkish that is an indication that you have increased blood flow and circulation.
Don’t aim to resolve all the fascial adhesions in one session.
At the end of each session, your muscles should feel lighter, looser, and warm from the increased blood flow. You may also see redness or red dots.
This is evidence of scar tissue that has been released or broken up. It's a good sign, however, wait until the redness has resolved to start another session.
How Often Do I Repeat Treatment?
If everything went well the first time. You can do this every 2-3 days. That would be around 2-3 times per week for 4-6 weeks until your pain goes away.
It's very important to NOT overtreat the area. You must allow time for tissues to heal before you scrape again! Expect to feel sore in the treatment area in the following days.
It almost feels like a bruise. Again, this is normal and is an indication that your treatment was a success.
Attention: Important Treatment Recommendations
1. Use only light to moderate pressure. Deeper pressure isn't anymore effective and can lead to deeper soreness and will prolong the time before you can scrape again.
2. Expect the tissues that you have treated to be sore and tender to touch for a couple of days following treatment. Wait until the soreness resolves to treat again.
3. You may see redness, red bumps, or mild bruising. This is normal and expected, however, you must allow the tissues to heal before treating again. If you continue to see bruising, your pressure is too deep.
Finding and releasing fascial adhesions is the first step to relieving many pain syndromes. I have found that most of my patients were able to use these tools effectively at home and get relief quickly.
Fascial release techniques offer many direct and indirect benefits. You can see pain reduction, improved flexibility, and improved circulation.
FST can act as a complement to other therapy and keep your muscles flexible and healthy. Be sure to consult your physician before using fascial techniques.
Best of Health,
Hi, I'm Dr. Angela Walk
I have been involved in the health and wellness industry for over 25 years as a natural physician.
I have written extensively for health publications and I am keenly aware of trends and new developments in natural health.
I embrace an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. My goal is to inform my readers of natural options available to them in hopes of improving their health and quality of life.