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Fascia Release: How To Know If Your Work Is Paying Off (Is Your Fascia ACTUALLY Getting Healthier?)

Most of the time I’m teaching you about how to get out of pain with fascia release, or sharing some intriguing fascia science. Today I want to make sure you have a way to gauge progress with your fascia release, if optimization (healthy fascia) is your goal. 

As you’ll learn in the video, the subjective experience of fascia release varies person to person, and depends on your orientation to pain and pleasure, sensation and emotion, and the relative health of your nervous system. 

When you have a nervous system that’s already trigger happy towards a sympathetic nervous system response like fight, flight or freeze, then fascia release can be perceived by your nervous system as a potential threat – and prohibit you from reaping any rewards at the physiological level. I always like to say that the nervous system is the “gatekeeper” to fascia release. This gatekeeper won’t let you pass unless you perceive fascia release as beneficial, positive or rewarding – even if it’s a really intense experience. 

The thing is, we can feel a lot of intensity (sensation and emotion that might be labeled painful, sore, tender etc) and also feel safe. 

Some people associate pleasure or intense positivity to the sensation of releasing really unhealthy fascia. One person’s torture is another person’s pleasure or immense relief (this is just as true outside the bedroom as in, which is what most people think when I say things like this). 

Some people consider fascia release torture, or intensely “painful.” 

This feels like a great opportunity to remind you of my favorite description of pain:

Pain is: sensation accompanied by the motor intention of running away. 

Take away the motor intention to run away and all that’s left is sensation. Pain is always subjective, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real. Physioligcally, the same part of your brain lights up when you cut yourself as it does when you feel shame socially. Basically, pain is our threat detection system. When we feel threatened, emotionally or physically, we experience pain. 

Most people who come to fascia release find it intense (or subjectively “painful.”)

I’ve labeled these 4 Phases of Fascial Optimization accordingly:

Phase 1 – Sucks a lot.
Phase 2 – Sucks a lot less.
Phase 3 – Feels…kinda good?!
Phase 4 – Feels like NOTHING. 

Really technical, huh?

You could replace this (if you’re one of the people, like me, who actually enjoys most fascia release even when it’s intense) with something like: 

Phase 1 – Finally, sweet relief!
Phase 2 – Ahhhh, that’s nice.
Phase 3 – Am I missing something?
Phase 4 – Well, this is disappointing…

Haha. 

I’ve actually had some Kinetix clients intentionally go “mess themselves up” just so they could come back and feel the sweet relief. I would never take it that far, but it is kind of disappointing (and also really exciting) when my fascia has no sensation, even with a lot of weight applied (in the case of Kinetix). 

When you first start doing fascia release at home, especially if you’re following my protocols, you’ll be focusing a lot on the adhesions (or “clunks”). But measuring whether or not the clunk disappears isn’t the best way to gauge progress with fascia release. 

So how SHOULD you be measuring progress, if your goal is fascial optimization? 

Primarily, I recommend measuring progress by your subjective sensory experience: is it intense or painful still to compress specific areas of fascia, or has the sensation changed to be more tolerable, or even pleasant? This is your best measurement, because water-rich fluid (optimized) fascia won’t produce any sensation when compressed, good or bad. So no matter where you fall on the spectrum of experiencing fascia release as painful or pleasant, you will stop feeling sensations or emotional reactions when you compress healthy fascia. 

As long as you’re still experiencing a lot of sensation during fascia release, your fascia is not optimized. That doesn’t mean it isn’t healthier than it was when you started (unless it’s the same level of intensity as when you started and you’ve been at it for weeks or months…then I would consider that perhaps your nervous system needs some attention, before you can make significant changes to your fascial system). 

The “clunks” or adhesions will disappear in some people, shrink in other people, and in some people they never diminish greatly in size, but that doesn’t mean their fascia isn’t optimized (for their body). It’s really all about sensation, which has to do with something called “proof resilience.” 

Here’s the science behind my claims:

Fascia has a proof resilience of 2,000lbs. This means that fascia (connective tissue) can withstand up to 2,000lbs of force or mechanical stress without deforming. Proof resilience refers to what’s possible, and does not mean that fascia always has this ability…but it does when it is at its healthiest. 

This is because, when fascia is fully optimized it will have a really high water content (up to 70%), and it is primarily our fascial system via its waterways throughout the body that can distribute mechanical stress or force through the whole system, so no one spot has to take the hit. Imagine throwing a rock into a lake – the lake will distribute the mechanical stress of the rock hitting its surface and falling to the ground by making ripples that often extend to the edges of the lake (depending on the size of the lake and the size of the rock). 

When fascia is unhealthy, that means it has lost water and is getting dehydrated. Before becoming brittle, it passes through a sticky phase where there is still some water mixing with collagen and glycoproteins. If it becomes even more dehydrated, it will lose even more water and perhaps some collagen along with the water until it turns brittle. 

In any unhealthy state, fascia won’t be able to distribute mechanical stress (such as you putting your quads on a foam roller) without initiating a minor threat detection. That’s because you are, in fact, more prone to injury or deformation when your fascia is in these dehydrated states. 

As you release fascia and stimulate the endogenous production of hyaluronic acid and water absorption, your fascia is regenerated back to its fluid water-rich optimal state. At this point, your body will be able to distribute the mechanical stress of putting your quads on a foam roller through more of your water-rich fascial system, which means you won’t feel the impact or incoming force at the point of contact – your quads. 

Most people settle for an absence of pain when embarking on a fascia release journey. They use fascia release just enough to eliminate whatever pain brought them to this path in the first place, and then they forget about fascia release and move on with their life. If they end up in pain again, then out come the foam roller and lacrosse ball…but just long enough to once again get out of pain. 

Don’t let this be you! 

Think about it this way: 

On a scale of NEGATIVE ten to POSITIVE ten, how do you want to FEEL? 

-10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 +10

Most people settle for negative 2, negative 1 or zero. 

You can feel light, buoyant, fluid and FREE when you take your fascia into the positive zone. 

I’m reminding myself of this too right now, because it’s also easy for me to forget how good I can feel! But I’ve had the experience, and I’m telling you…it’s SO WORTH the effort! And once you get there, it’s a LOT easier to maintain with consistent work than unhealthy fascia you’re managing to stay pain-free. 

Share your takeaways or ask me a question below! 

* Disclaimer: The contents of this blog and accompanying YouTube channel are for informational purposes only and do not render medical or psychological advice, opinion, diagnosis, or treatment. The information provided through this website is expressly the opinions of each author and should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. This is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a medical or psychological problem, you should consult your appropriate health care provider. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Links on this website are provided only as an informational resource, and it should not be implied that we recommend, endorse or approve of any of the content at the linked sites, nor are we responsible for their availability, accuracy or content.

  • Ksenia Gutzke says:

    I have wondered if 3 separate areas on your body can show 3 separate phases. Like I have some that are still tender to touch that I know need some TLC (like IT bands.) But Biceps on the other hand are goofy and clunky, but no problem. It can be disappointing to remember that the thing that has a flare-up was doing better before. I don’t get to be the “Don’t-be-this-person” who only releases fascia when there is a problem, since there is always a problem lol– (but instead I think I get a lot of benefits of making it a daily way of life.)

    Btw, I wonder if you have addressed in a video what you do about releasing leg areas that have extensive varicose veins. Do you feel you have to take a more gentle approach?

    • Ksenia – ABSOLUTELY, you can have 4 different phases in 4 different body parts! I should have clarified that in the video. So yeah, each spot will have its own sensation level and texture. For varicose veins, I do recommend being mindful and checking in with your body at a feeling level and also visually. I’ve never had an issue with this in my private practice, but I also trust myself to never do fascia release in a way that would put such a person at risk. Another practitioner (or someone at home who doesn’t know any better) might do something that further compromises the veins.

  • Donna Kvachkoff says:

    Pam, thank you for taking the time to educate people. I’ve had a back issue for over a year. Doctoring myself via internet and Phys. Therapy for months, not improvement. Came across what I believe is my issue, the PSOAS! LOT OF STRESS!!! Company changes, family health, my health, coworker let go etc. Read, the PSOAS can cause of digestion issues as well as back, leg, sciatic, piriformis, scoliosis, spondylolistheses, crooked pelvis etc. All this have developed in me since April of 2019. I do believe I have fascia issues because of the tightness and pain on top of thigh with rubbing. Little by little with stretching, not too much because the PSOAS doesn’t like it!!! I am able to stand straighter without excruciating pain. I’ve learned a lot watching examples like yours and I deeply appreciate your wealth of knowledge. I am seeing a new chiropractor/internist that has me exercising on a ball stretching out my leg, and I also bought a vibrating plate, which I am only on Phase 1 and doing good. I am 77 and have the mindset of a 30 year old and I never ever expected to walk like a 90 year old. I danced and was always active. I walk fast and can work around any teenager. this week is the first week I have had more than 1 day without sciatic/piriformis pain and oh boy I feel like I am on the mend. The chiropractor kiddingly said my brain and my sacrum do not like each other, which I can relate because stress causes your brain to react and tighten all the muscles for protection, flight, fight, or fetal. The PSOAS book educated me on all the problems this muscle can create by being TIGHT! I have never had scoliosis and now my hips go one way and my breast go the opposite. My neck is cocked too. I am claiming Isaiah 53:5, “by his stripes I am healed”. Now looking forward to a completely pain free life and dancing again and walking tall. Yeah! All this to say THANK YOU for educating us on the fascia. I will be working on that too. Everything in our spine all works together for our good. Isn’t God good? Donna K.

    • Ksenia Gutzke says:

      Thanks Donna, I can’t believe I can get up and down off the floor now and both of my legs are about the same. Piriformis was so bad, at first I could do some squatting using an inflated, then a deflated exercise ball, then just a yoga block in case I lost my balance. I used mostly mobility mastery and some of Bob and Brad PT’s channel (they are great for figuring out what to focus on.) I am happy to hear you are starting on your MM journey, and sounds like we can put each other on the prayer chain. And your comment makes me want to go back and find all about her Psoas posts and videos. Your situation sounds very similar to how mine was, and also as far as continuing challenges. I was just wondering how to figure out if I am making progress, and well, I am out of bed, have had an active few years. It was just a bummer lately to have another flare-up I think. (Diet and stress are going to be 2 biggies for me to really get this healing process moving.)

  • Pam says:

    Great info. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

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