A recent impact to the head illicited some late responses recently and left me reflecting on Myofascial Contraction in relation to injury and how small impacts and bumps can have more impact than we give them credit for. That and also a nasty bump on my bald scalp!
Fascia is the body’s connective tissue. It covers every muscle, organ and muscular compartment as well as going right down to every tendon, muscle fibre and even deeper to the microscopic level of muscle fascicles. It is part of what gives our body shape and is contractile. It serves as the connection for nerves and blood vessels and plays a great role in allowing our bodies to move in transverse movements across the midline of the body and involving a complex co-ordination of muscles to effect movement. Complex movements with power require a great deal of muscular contraction as well as contraction of the fascial system.
Fascia can also be contractile for protective reasons. If I am to strike the shoulder repeatedly, fascia that covers the muscular tissue and organs underneath will ‘contract’ in order to prevent the underlying tissue from being impacted and effectively damaged. This sort of contraction can lead to long-term postural adaption that directly influences how a body part moves and contracts to effect movement. Releasing of this sort of tension is paramount to gain full Range of Motion for joint spaces and muscles alike.
Similarly, fascia can become tight and restricted and often it is this tightness that must first be addressed before addressing underlying tissues or muscular structures to gain a return to full function. Fascia is most reliant on hydration and when impeded by bad hydration, becomes ‘glued’ or ‘stuck’. Resulting in a holding pattern of a joint whereby it just seems unable to release and allow full range to occur. Stretching in this instant may not be enough to effect change and ‘myofascial release’ is needed to effect malleable tissue and release of the area.
Fascia is very dense in certain areas of the body, one of it’s functions being to transmit compressive force or energy across the body and assist in generating power. For example, consider a baseball swing. The rotational force required to wind up the back-swing and then release the bat in an arc of movement, generating power at the furthest point from the fulcrum, must be generated from the epicenter of the equation. In this case, this is the core or abdominal cavity. The “Thoraco-lumbar fascia” is largely responsible for maintaining the tension and inherent recoil power that is necessary to generate the swing of the bat. Without it, the muscular contraction is not sufficient to generate power effectively without damaging the bod.
But to return to the original idea, impact to a body part can result in a ‘locking’ or ‘compensation’ in another area that may not reveal itself instantly. It can take days to present itself in pain or compromised movement function and this can then present itself in injury. My example being my normal work routine followed by an over exuberant gym session resulting in my neck and shoulder ‘spasming’ due to an impact to the opposing side of my head days before. When placing the neck and stabilising muscles of the shoulder under strain from an inspired workout in the gym, my entire right shoulder lapsed in power, my neck was contracted, my head was unable to turn and without treatment, I then suffered from intense headache and was unable to lift my head from the pillow much less come in and work as a massage therapist.
Fortunately, I know a few people who are adept at ‘fascial release’ and identifying the root cause of compensatory muscular contraction. The soft tissue work I received from my therapists helped me to address the cause of the issue and get me back up onto my feet the very next day.
Funnily, it was only when I was back at work that I remembered the unfortunate argument I had with the garage door, which I lost obviously, the preceding week and was able to summise where the original impact had had an effect on my body.
So next time you think you are fine after a bump on the noggin or a crushing blow on the sporting field, think again, and ensure that you are conscious of the way your body may need some help in releasing some of the compensatory issues that can stop you in your tracks further down the week.