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.
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:
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.”)
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…
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.
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.”
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:
-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!
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