Fascia: Is it Really New ‘News’ in the World of Bodywork?

Fascia.  The word of the moment in the world of body work.  Whether it be injury prevention, fitness training, injury treatment, postural correction or chronic pain it is almost a certainty these days that someone has discussed Fascia or Connective tissue with you.  A substance once cut out and thrown away in cadaver, has now had the tables turned with dissection now becoming more focused on this one time garbage and how it connects together to form functional lines within our body.

Although science is catching up with the importance of this tissue that amongst a myriad of functions provides us with a vital, high speed communication route within our neural network, its importance in creating postural integrity and a pain free existence has been around for a very long time – think Yoga for example!   In more ‘recent’ times and in terms of body work, I look to the work of Ida Rolf for breaking ground in this area at a time when science and her peers may have simply written off her beliefs.

Born in 1896 in New York she started her career as a biochemist achieving her PHD in 1926.  Leaving her research in this area behind she moved to Switzerland where she studied mathematics and atomic physics.  It was around this time in the 1930’s that her own ailments and those of people close to her drove her to also study a number of alternative therapies to help in alleviating the symptoms that seemed to be resistant to modern medicine at the time.  An extremely intelligent and gifted academic she studied many therapies including Homeopathy, Osteopathy, Yoga and the Alexander Technique.  Clearly a woman of science, yet what I believe made her great was also an appreciation for what she anecdotally found through treatments she performed and the results she achieved.  This led to her core belief that ‘When the body gets working appropriately, the force of gravity can flow through.  Then spontaneously, the body heals itself’.

We all know now how postural imbalance wrecks havoc with our bodies, we also now know how simple deviations from posture changes the loads that are put through each joint e.g. “For every inch of Forward Head Posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds.” -Kapandji, Physiology of Joints.  If our goal becomes aligning a body against gravity returning us to our evolutionary best, do these extraneous pressures, vectors and forces simply disappear?  In these elements disappearing do our aches, pains and potentially even our illnesses simply disappear?

 It sounds simple in principle but with hundreds of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones in the body how do we treat each of these to achieve our most resilient bodies?  Dr Ida Rolf proposed the fastest and most effective way to achieve this was actually by releasing, un-sticking and reorganising our connective tissue to create space.  Space that allows those hundreds of bones, muscles and ligaments to fall into place and become resilient against gravity and the external pressures we expose ourselves to on a daily basis.  This approach would allow us to move better,  for energy to flow seamlessly within our bodies,  for fluids to ebb and flow without getting stuck,  to allow us to stand comfortably and resiliently within our skins against gravity.   Structural Integration was born.   A series of sessions that work through the most superficial to the deepest levels of your fascia unwinding this connective tissue leaving your with a Resilient body ready to take on the world.

The science may not have been as advanced as Dr Ida Rolfs thinking and practice were at the time but what is for certain and why forms of Structural Integration and Myofascial Release are becoming more widely available is that science IS  now catching up. Look to the amazing work by Schleip, Langevin  and the Fascia Research Project at Ulm University if you want to get yourself up to speed.

Don’t be left behind – get ‘Fascia’ Fit!

 References & Related Links


I had the pleasure of spending a day with Claire Robertson the Consultant Physiotherapist at Wimbledon Clinics yesterday focusing on Patellofemoral Pain, the potential causes and rehabilitation.  You can read Claire’s biography here but it is safe to say she knows her stuff leading and releasing ground breaking research in this area.  This leads me to today’s blog, what do you do if you are suffering from knee pain, the MRI is clear but your pain is very real?

It has long been proven that prescribed exercise is beneficial to individuals suffering with Osteoarthritis of the knee.  Generally when talking to people with this condition, they will gladly demonstrate the various exercises they have been working on to keep the knee mobile and to help reduce pain, but what happens when this relief starts to wear off and the pain starts to creep back?  Is there anything else that can be done?


Osteoarthritis of the knee is a condition where the cartilage within the joint has been damaged or worn away due to wear, tear and overuse.  With these compromised articulating surfaces the knee can become stiff, swollen and painful.  The bones of the joint can thicken along with the ligaments of the joint capsule affecting movement to an even greater level.   At its worst movement at the joint can be completely restricted, I can remember one particular client who presented with a completely straight leg with no flexion available at all! 

Is your Posture causing you more than just a pain in the neck?

If you read my blogs then you are no stranger to postural imbalance and the problems it can lead to.  Desk neck, phone wrist and driving shoulder are all common complaints these days.   I think we are probably all agreed that when our posture goes wrong it can lead to musculo-skeletal problems, but could our modern day poor posture be causing us bigger problems?

Calf Strain: Bent Leg Rehab or Straight?

One of the most common complaints I see in my clinic, are clients hobbling in with calf strain.  Sometimes they really felt it go, and other times they were just waiting for a tennis ball at the net and felt sudden weakness or cramp hence the name – ‘Tennis Leg’.  I had one client in particular who

thought he was cramping, kept playing and the next day and for a number of weeks afterwards he had quite a spectacular bruise…. cramps don’t bruise!

 First things first, what exactly is your calf?  The calf muscle is a generic name used to describe the muscles at the back of the leg.  In fact there are several muscles living in this neighbourhood and identifying which one has been damaged is key to fixing the problem and getting you back on form.

Instrument Assisted Massage: A Therapists Review

I was first introduced to the wonders of Instrument Assisted Massage and IAM Tools by the fabulous Jenny Burrell late last year and was amazed by the level of soft tissue release achieved in such a short space of time.  This weekend I attended the Advanced Course in Instrument Assisted Massage Tools run by IAM Tools and have been absolutely amazed by the extent these tools can help in soft tissue

work having got myself into a bit of a tool rut reserving its use for necks, hip flexors and forearms.

If Instrument Assisted Massage is so effective what is stopping more therapists from integrating it into their treatment tool belt?  Here I intend to write a review of Instrument Assisted Massage from a once sceptic who is now fully converted to its benefits in the hope that it maybe helps you to give it a go!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Can Massage Help?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) has an occurrence in the general population of up to 7% and is becoming ever more prevalent.   With over 35,000 surgeries performed for CTS in the UK each year it is costing its sufferers discomfort but also time and money.   Not only that but it is putting the health service under pressure so much so that there are initiatives to introduce Nurse led surgery for CTS underway in the UK.  I think this expansion of skill across the health service is fantastic and more of it please, but I cannot help but think that in some cases there may be a more conservative approach to help in less extreme cases or indeed in preventing CTS from getting to a stage where surgery is the only option that remains.

Case Study: Cystic Fibrosis – The Impact on Posture

Cystic Fibrosis is a hereditary disease caused by a faulty gene.  ‘This gene controls the movement of salt and water in and out of your cells, so the lungs and digestive system become clogged with mucus, making it hard to breathe and digest food’.  The symptoms can include poor lung function, repeated chest infections, poor digestion and hence nutrition, bowel problems and CF related diabetes.  In addition there is also a link to low bone density and low muscle mass.  Treatment includes medication, nutrition, exercises and physiotherapy.  The Physiotherapy aspect helps to build up the muscles that act on the lungs to help with clearing the mucus which in turn helps to minimise the lung infections as part of the treatment of the condition.

The Ankle Series: Bouncy, Rolling Ankles

How many of you have suffered from sprained ankles over the years?  Now how many of you are now left with bouncy rolling ankles?  Do you often ‘go over’ on your ankle, but bounce back up with no pain or sprain?  But what if next time you ‘go over’ on your ankle you are not so lucky and fall on your knee or hip and injure another part of your body?

It amazes me how many people suffer from these unstable bouncy ankles including myself.  Whether it be from frequent sprains, ligament damage, lack of rehabilitation at the time of the sprain or simply a lack of strength it is never too late to help improve the situation.

The Ankle Series: Floppy Ankles, Sore Shins? Maybe it is Time for a Rethink!

Floppy ankles… I see them on an almost daily basis, calves so tight that as soon as my clients lay down on the treatment table their ankles flop forward as if preparing to dance for  ‘The Royal Ballet’.  For many reasons it appears that our calves have shortened up.  Be it the high heels we wear, the amount we train or simply the time we spend on our feet, what is certain is that tight calves prevail.

So what have these floppy ankles got to do with sore and tender shins?  Shin splints, for any of you have suffered from this painful condition, are caused by the muscles and tendons that attach to the shin bone (the Tibia) pulling on the bone and causing ache and sometimes acute pain.   Its generally not the bone that is hurting but the tendons themselves from being overly tight and strained. This muscle that attaches to the front of the shin is the Tibialis Anterior which dorsi-flexes the ankle (pulls your toes towards your head) and also inverts the ankle.  Treatment can focus on releasing the tension in this muscle, massage, stretching and the like to relieve the pressure and pulling on the shin bone.  But have you been doing this yet not seeing any results?