The title of this blog post says it all.
It is also something, I personally learned the hard way, years ago during my days working as a contemporary dancer, and now working professionally as a myofascial release therapist, cannot stress enough!
So take a moment with me and allow yourself to adopt a beginner’s mind and let go of all that we Westerners have “known” about the human body regarding muscles and skeletal tissue. We’ve been brought up to believe that we’re merely skin, muscles and bones…all separate parts from one another, akin to a machine with various working internal structures.
The fascial system challenges this way of seeing the human body.
You see, fascia is a FULL BODY, connective tissue system with one area directly or indirectly affecting another. It looks like an internal spider web and everything in our bodies, down to the tiniest cell, is like a fly trapped within a spider web. This tissue, embeds and infuses, EVERYTHING. And when fascial restrictions occur in one area of the body, this restriction can tug and pull at various others, creating painful compensation patterns throughout the system. These restrictions also place 2000 pounds of pressure PER square inch!!! No wonder you may have experienced headaches or pain patterns that feel “crushing.” You’ve felt this way, because these restrictions ARE crushing what’s embedded in them, not to mention that fascial tissue has 6-10 times more nerve endings than muscle tissue alone, exacerbating the amount of pain experienced.
Anyway, I digress.
Because of the fascial system’s full body nature, it can take an average of 24 – 48 hours post-session for the FULL system to catch up to the new holding patterns that can occur as a result of receiving Myofascial Release work. It’s during this first 24-28 hours post-session time frame, when the most changes occur. And if you go back to any strenuous physical activity too fast, too soon, you run the risk of injuring yourself.
This point leads me to the example I was eluding to at the beginning of this post. Here it is:
Once upon a time, when I was working full time as a professional contemporary dancer, I had experienced a slew of chronic knee injuries to my right knee where the patella (i.e. “knee-cap”) would subluxate (i.e. “partially dislocate”) laterally (i.e. to the outisde of my right leg). This extremely painful reoccuring injury would stop me in my tracks with weeks of rehabilitation to follow.
It was during a particulary unremarkable time during my career, when I was not experiencing this injury for some time, that I found myself rehearsing for two different companies with shows that lined up back to back with one another. Two weeks before the first show, I started to experience some discomfort in my right knee that felt like a precursor to the chronic injury. Because I caught this sensation early on, I decided to be proactive and receive some treatment before it got worse. And so I found myself working with a Rolfer (a form of myofascial release therapy created by Ida Rolf in the 1940s) recommended to me to help ease the tension pattern in my body.
The session was, although intense, simply wonderful. I got up from the table at the end of the two hour session feeling a freedom in my body that I hadn’t experienced before! And just before I left the Rolfer’s office, he mentioned to me the importance of taking it easy for 24-28 hours to let the work “settle in.” “Settle in!? I feel great and ready to jump back into rehearsal tomorrow, I don’t need it to ‘settle in’,” my hot-shot 24 year old self thought.
BIG MISTAKE. BIG. HUGE. MISTAKE.
Why was this a mistake? Because as I eluded to earlier on, I didn’t give my body the appropriate chill out time to allow for the work to settle in. For most of us Westerners, “GO, GO, GO,” tends to be the unconcious mantra of choice. But, you see, there is a thing called balance. And without the appropriate amount of yin (i.e. rest and digest), there is no effective yang (go, go, go).
And so, as my experience would have it, I found myself mid 3 hour rehearsal the following day, lying on the floor bracing my GOOD knee (the left knee) that swelled up to the size of a grapefruit, only to find out a few days later that I had partially torn my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament). It was with that diagnosis that I had to pull myself from, not one, but two dance performances.
So you see, this rest period is a REAL thing that needs to be respected so the body can properly heal from the inside out. It’s also a time to become aquainted or reaquainted with our body. Since we are a society of “GO, GO, GO,” this frenetic pace doesn’t allow time for us to stop and tune in, which is ESSENTIAL to authentic healing.
So what can you do during this 24-48 hour period to make the most of your healing? The following are a few suggestions:
Drink PLENTY of H20! This will rehydrate your fascia (which LOVES water!) and ultimately help prevent future restrictions from occurring, because the fascia is getting fuel that it needs to function efficiently.
Rest 24 – 48 hours: You may incorporate gentle movement such as leisurely walking or stretching. Remember nothing too strenuous!
Incorporate Self-Care Technqiues: Foam rolling or additional release work on a therapy ball can be supportive post-treatment to those regions that may need a little more attention. Don’t overdo it and remember to ease into the release, no force or you run the risk of damaging the tissue. Hold each release for a 5 minute minimum as long as there is no pain. Remember, it’s not a “no pain, no gain” experience we’re going for here.
Monitor your body’s response: Take note of how your body feels post-session and what is coming up for you, from you. This allows you the possibility to get to know your body and yourself a little more.
As part of monitoring your body’s response, a phenomena called a healing crisis may occur.
A healing crisis (feeling a little worse before getting better) is one of the three ways the body can respond post MFR sessions. The other two ways the body can respond is feeling good or possibly feeling sore. Anything in between these three possible outcomes can happen as well. It’s not black and white.
Now back to healing crisis. This can range from old pain patterns coming to the surface to finally work their way through the fascial system, localized soreness in the areas that were treated, pain patterns moving from one area of the body to another, headahces, nausea, feeling emotional, and the like. While this is not the most enjoyable experience to be had post-session, it is a form of authenic healing which doesn’t always feel good, but ulitmately allows for negative sensations or holding patterns to surface so they can eventually flush out of the physical body so you can feel better in the long run.
It is with a healing crisis that you, the client, need to go through the experience first hand, in order to heal it. I, or anybody else, cannot do it for you. It’s because of this I would not suggest running towards an addicitive tendency to ‘cover up’ the discomfort, as it will only resurface in time for you to finally face it and deal with it. Take it easy, give yourself space to rest and process, and if you need additional support feel free to reach out to me and I can either give you some suggestions as to what to do on your own or guide you to the appropriate practitioner to help you mentally/emotionally process what’s surfacing for you.
In a nutshell, please remember it’s you who gets to live with you each and everyday, and as such, if you won’t take care of you, who else will? Our sessions together are a facilitation to the healing process in your life, and because of this, it’s not my job to “fix” you or take the pain away, but rather help you along the road back to health, and it’s essential to care of yourself along the way.