As a research scientist and a movement professional, I have spent years walking the line between two frustrating worlds; my medical hospital coworkers and alternative/complementary medicine colleagues, both of whom found it acceptable to marginalize the others’ approaches to body work. I believe in both the proven science and in the musculoskeletal “theory” as vehicles for helping people manage their pain. Today, we all share excitement over the discoveries so far with cautious hope for answer within the future research. However, I still see many naysayers on social media who disregard the effectiveness of myofascial work. Primarily, it appears that the cynical questions are related to both a lack of optimism in the future of the research and an unfortunate faction of fitness instructors who are overselling myofascial work.
This is an old problem in the fitness industry, when some folks don’t do their reading or misrepresent what they can offer. But let’s not lose focus on the good work. The truth is we have not figured out all the “hows and whys” of manipulation of myofascial tissue, but we know it helps many feel better. Some evidence indicates blood flow and temporary joint range of motion changes —but we cannot name precisely what happens to the tissue itself to make it different. There is however, pertinent evidence in the newly discovered array of neuro-receptors abundant in the fascia.
In Yoga Tune Up® and Roll Model® classes, this is the scientific evidence on which the myofascial work is based. By using great awareness, calm breath and focus while practicing deep palpation with therapy balls, we harness their power to calm the nervous system and allow the body to relax. The touch and pressure of the balls also helps us to find our “blindspots” and by eliciting neuro-messaging of proprioception, we can improve our positional awareness, which helps decrease pain perception. More noticeable improvements can be felt when practiced over time. To answer the epic questions above about what is specifically happening to each muscle fiber as a result of rolling, we will need better studies to investigate live persons using imaging and other technology. But, let’s not get so wrapped in the science and forget that most people simply want to feel better and don’t really care about the “mechanism of action” underneath their skin.
With that in mind, even Western physicians have long worked without all the “proof” and have used both art and science in helping people. They have long understood the importance of both “laboratory evidence” (e.g. blood panel results) as well “clinical presentation” (the vibrant person standing in front of them) and use both perspectives to guide treatment recommendations. Well-informed movement teachers are capable of combining the most recent science with intelligent concepts from biomechanics and kinesiology for practical, prudent movement methods that get results– without misleading or overselling the science. Even though I’m a former research scientist, I am not waiting for tomorrow’s completion of randomized controlled trials to “prove” details about tissue changes. I can help students feel and demonstrate improvements today, even though I cannot explain all of it.
For more information on fascia and science, see Jill’s easy to understand condensed Chapter Four of The Roll Model A Step-by-Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility, and Live Better in Your Body, or checkout Yoga Tune Up® Education at the Teacher Training Tab. If you are looking for a good movement teacher who is trained properly integrated anatomy, the latest research and intelligent movement methods, see the Tab for Meet All Teachers. You have the capacity to be a self-healing organism and have all the tools with which to do it, so get rolling!