The cause of pain in the body can be difficult to track down. This is why numerous people rely on pain medication. Without a method of treating the root cause, covering up that pain seems the only option. However, to practitioners of fascia-based treatment methods, the source of pain is usually not such a mystery. When working to relieve pain by treating restricted fascia, the interconnected nature of the body is considered – not just those painful areas.
The Body-Wide Web
This fibrous connective tissue called fascia covers all muscles, bones, nerves, organs and blood vessels. Fascia interconnects throughout the body as a web-like “fabric,” embedded with millions of nerve endings that provide a critical sense of position, so we can determine where all the parts of our body are in space. This enables us to walk, talk, brush our teeth, drive a car or any other activity that requires coordinated motion. If fascia stiffens or is restricted, it can alter position sense and cause muscle imbalance, joint misalignment and pain. However, where we have restricted fascia and where we feel pain aren’t necessarily the same places.
People receiving fascia therapy are often surprised and even amused by the connection of fascial restriction in one part of the body to pain somewhere completely different. Sometimes, these patterns of “referred pain” are simple to explain, but sometimes they are complicated, to the point of seeming baffling.
Some patterns are common, like restriction in the low back fascia weakening the biggest shoulder muscle, the latissimus dorsi, which runs from the low back to the shoulder. This weakness tends to make the shoulder joint unstable, causing pain and potentially even rotator cuff injury. Another common pattern is restriction of fascia in the lower leg, triggering calf muscle weakness and tension which imbalances the hip muscles, resulting in sacro-iliacmisalignment and pain. Therefore, low back treatment might be needed to help shoulder pain and releasing a calf restriction could offer relief to the sacro-iliac joint.
More unusual patterns of referred pain from fascial restriction are not uncommon. A martial arts enthusiast I treated recently was surprised when his right hip and knee pain were relieved after release of restriction in fascial attachments on his skull. Another patient reported “I just don’t believe it’s true” when her neck range-of-motion increased greatly after treatment of fascia of the lower back. The possible combinations are endless, due to how fascial restriction causes pain and the unique way each person’s body will adapt to stressed fascia.
Untangling the Web
The positive aspect, if there is one, about pain caused by the fascia is that physical discomfort is responsive to fascia-based therapies. Successful treatment hinges on a thorough exam, tracing the problem to its source. After all, if the shoulder is sore because the low back has restricted fascia, it’s ineffective to only treat the shoulder. Success comes from treating the root cause.
Coming in February
Find out more about fascial restriction, its role in causing pain, and the treatment methods available, at a presentation on February 23, from 7–8 p.m. (refreshments at 6:45 p.m.). Titled “The Body-Wide Web,” this presentation will include a brief treatment demonstration, followed by a Q&A session. Dr. Eric Winder and Rowan Winder, LMT, will present the program at GentleBay Chiropractic.
Dr. Eric Winder has been practicing chiropractic for 19 years. He has focused on fascial treatment and soft tissue therapies for the past 16 years. His practice GentleBay Chiropractic is located at 3131 S Tamiami Trail, #102, Sarasota, and also at 730 The Rialto in Venice. To register for this event, call 941-957-8390 or respond through the GentleBay Facebook page.
This article was published in the February 2017 edition of Natural Awakenings magazine, Sarasota/Manatee/Charlotte Edition.