Just after evaluating Laura, I took my first course in John Barnes' myofascial release approach. This approach to treatment is based on the fascial system, a greatly overlooked system of the body.
The importance of the role of the fascial system was explored and documented by Dr. John Upledger, chief of research at Michigan State University. The fascia surrounds every cell of every system in the body
including bones, muscles, organs, nerve and the brain' forming a three dimensional web from head to toe. This makes the fascia the immediate environment of each cell. This environment should be
gelatinous in form, giving it the ability to absorb shock and cushion the cells. When an injury occurs to the body and/or postural malalignment occurs, the fascia binds down causing pulling throughout the
system. Imagine a loosely knit sweater, and that you are pulling on one corner of it. Depending on the direction you are pulling, the fibers throughout the sweater pull and realign along the lines of
tension. This is what happens in the body. When bones are pulled out of normal alignment due to injury, stress or tight muscles, and the fascia pulls in a three dimensional pattern throughout the
body. In this way an injury to the thigh can unbalance the pelvis causing other bones, muscles, etc., to unbalance in an effort to compensate.
Think of the body as a bag of blocks stacked neatly in a well-balanced tower – if one block is moved out, another block must be moved in to counterbalance or the tower falls down. This also occurs in the
body. With a tensile strength of two thousand pounds per square inch, the fascial system cannot correct itself back into normal alignment without help. This constant pulling is responsible for many
chronic pain problems, postural deviation, etc. Children born with handicaps often have fascial restrictions from the body's attempts to compensate for abnormal muscle tone and movement patterns, as well as
from birth trauma.
I decided to use a myofascial release approach in Laura's treatment. I began with CV-4s and transverse plane releases. Next, I tried arm and leg pulls which she tolerated with minimal discomfort, so her
parents were instructed in these techniques as a home program. I gradually introduced deep releases, releasing all aspects of the legs, trunk, shoulders, arms and neck. The psoasis and anterior hip
joints were very restricted. After several releases over the anterior hip joints and continuing into the legs and/or the trunk, lumbo-sacral decompressions, lower back releases, and hamstring releases; the
pelvis began shifting into a more normal position. This shift in her pelvis and the increased mobility of her muscles allowed for a decrease in muscle tone, since now the muscles didn't have to "fight" gravity
to maintain an upright posture. Her movement patterns, therefore, became more fluid, her balance improved, and the influence of abnormal reflexes began diminishing. I continued releasing areas of fascial
restrictions I found throughout her body and utilizing various cranial-sacral techniques, as well as unwinding.
By the time Laura's six-month re-evaluation, she made significant progress. Not only could she now stand still and maintain her balance, but she could actually catch an object thrown to her without
falling. Laura continues to progress in her treatment program. Last school year, she tried out for the cheerleading squad, and made it. Maybe she can't do the splits or cartwheels yet, but she can
stand still and maintain her balance while performing the cheers and stomp her feet and move side to side.
Laura's case is not an isolated one. All of the children (and adults) I treat have made significant progress in shorter periods of time since the addition of myofascial release techniques to my treatment
program. I routinely teach parents arm and leg pulls as home programs for gaining and maintaining range of motion, while releasing fascial restrictions. Most children tolerate deep releases and
cranial-sacral techniques readily, and most children love unwinding.
I believe the children deserve the chance to experience normal posture and muscle mobility, which is possible with the addition of myofascial release.
( Reprinted with permission. )