I recently joined 800 other therapists and scientific researchers from universities and medical schools around the world for the third triennial Fascia Congress in Vancouver, Canada 28-30 March 2012. The purpose of the congress was to enable the new generation of scientists specialising in fascia research to meet the complementary therapists who are already using myofascial release and other soft tissue techniques in the treatment of a variety of pain conditions.
Interest in facia research has grown enormously since the first congress held at Harvard University in 2007. Understandably some complementary therapists have mixed feelings about the medical and scientific community that once dismissed facial work as quackery but who are now getting in on the act. However for the most part the spirits that characterised the 2012 congress (and previous ones) were of cooperation and excitement at recent breakthroughs in the scientific understanding of fascia and of how myofascial release works to reduce pain and restore movement.
While physical therapists take a holistic (whole body) approach to patient care, scientific research is minutely focused on isolated areas of the body. This is why scientific research can be frustratingly slow to validate and explain effective physical therapies like myofascial release. However, here are some highlights from the research which are directly relevant to my every day clinical work:
• research from the Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China showing that fascial therapy can significantly improve cell activity in connective tissue to support the body’s healing processes
• research from the University of Limerick, Ireland showing that self myofascial release can strengthen the foot and have a positive effect on physical performance (in this case jumping exercises)
• research from Bond University in Australia showing how deficiencies in the fat pads on the soles of our feet can deform the underlying fascia and lead to chronic heel pain ( plantar fasciitis )
• research from the Commonwealth Medical College in Pennsylvania highlighting the need to work with both muscles and fascia when treating pelvic floor dysfunction
• research from around the world highlighting the damage done to fascia during surgery, and the role of scar tissue in creating and transmitting pain to apparently unrelated areas of the body
• research showing the effectiveness of massage in reducing post-operative complications following abdominal and pelvic surgery
• a clinical trial showing the effectiveness of trigger point therapy and myofascial work, along with changes to diet, in ending long-term chronic pain where surgery in distant parts of the body had apparently created the problems
The next international fascia congress will be held in Orlando, Florida in 2015. In the meantime it is still up to complementary therapists and their clients to take the intuitive leaps to apply this important scientific research to their own situations.