Why is fascia release SO painful?
For starters, fascia has its own pain receptors…which can contribute to the “pain” you feel when releasing your fascia.
If you’ve been with me for any length of time then you’ve probably heard me say repeatedly that
Healthy fascia doesn’t hurt when compressed.
So if your fascia hurts – whether you’re using a foam roller, lacrosse ball or you decide to get stepped on (via Kinetix – my method of partner fascia release) – it’s an indication that your fascia is unhealthy.
What exactly does that mean though? What constitutes healthy vs unhealthy fascia?
Healthy fascia has an abundance of one thing in particular that makes it resilient and not easily “hurt.”
That one thing is: WATER.
Water is very hard to damage. You can move it from one location to another, but you can’t damage water. It absorbs impact with tremendous grace and ease, like a lake that allows the rock hitting its surface to make a beautiful growing ripple that spreads across the whole lake while the rock sinks to the bottom….no harm done to the lake.
When your fascia has a high water content it can distribute mechanical stress coming into your body (like your weight on a foam roller, my foot stepping on you or the pounding of your feet on a trail run) through your whole fascial system, very much like the rippling circles in the lake after you throw a rock in.
When your fascia is unhealthy, it’s lacking that high water content; it’s become either dense and fibrous, or brittle and dehydrated and it can no longer distribute the mechanical stress of energy coming into your body from the outside. So those pain receptors within the fascia get triggered, because there is some real danger of damage now. (Your body doesn’t know the difference between someone punching you in the leg vs you getting ready to release the fascia there…that’s your body looking out for you!)
While this is the MAIN reason fascia release “hurts”, there’s another reason that I have to mention:
The story you tell yourself, or the meaning you attach to the sensations you feel…that is the ultimate determinant of whether fascia release is painful, neutral or pleasurable.
If you associate pain with the sensations of releasing fascia, then your brain will consistently associate pain with fascia release. At least until you make your fascia healthy.
The human brain works by naming, categorizing and storing away information for future reference: is this safe, dangerous, neither? When I do x, y or z do I need protection, is it scary, or is it fun, playful, weird or simply “work?”
We live in a world with physical laws as well as more spiritual or “energy” laws, so approaching fascia release with both in mind is helpful. There are physical rules that govern your body, your physical experience. Then, there are more energetic laws that have more to do with you, your mind/consciousness, your spirit and the meaning you give your life experiences. Do you find fascia release painful, neutral or pleasurable? Share below in the comments.