Take Time to Quiet Down and Listen to Your Body
Our bodies have a fascial system that a lot of people don't really know about or haven't heard of. We are familiar with the muscular system, skeletal system, nervous system, etc. but what holds all those things together and connects all of those things and holds us together as a person is a Fascial System.
What's a Facial System?
It's a three-dimensional connective tissue web that connects all of the other systems together. This fascial system is meant to be a free-floating web that moves and glides freely and allows the structures that it holds, your muscles your blood vessels your nerves your bones, to do the jobs that they were meant to do.
See also: What is Myofascial Release? Does it work?
Head, Neck, Shoulder Pain
When we have restrictions on that web, it tightens down. So instead of moving freely and gliding as it should, it tightens down over those pain-sensitive structures. These fascial restrictions are missed often by western medicine doctors because it doesn't show up on standardized tests like X-rays, MRIs, and CAT scans which are the most frequent tests that are done when you go into a doctor to complain about pain.
When Rachele works with her patients in the office she makes sure it's a hands-on approach.
She gives people exercises, different stretches, and things to work on and do at home. These are very personalized to what is going on with them.
She notices that the most common pain is a pain in the back of their neck and the tops of their shoulders in the back, and their upper back and lower back.
It happens because we're in a very tech world. We're on our phones all day. We're on our computers, we're driving, we're always very contracted in the front of our bodies. All this fascia upfront is contracted when our heads come forward, our shoulders come forward and we get very tight upfront. Because of this, we can't expand and we get pain in the back.
She gives us a really simple stretch that is going to open up the chest, neck, and shoulders. She suggests putting a timer on for five minutes because the key to a myofascial stretch is time. Nobody holds stretches for long enough and to actually stretch things fascia or even the muscles, you have to hold the stretch for longer.
You’ll need a long foam roller (about 3 feet wide and 6 or so inches wide). If you don't have that, roll up a really thick comforter or a bunch of blankets rolled up so that they create that log or a couple of pillows.
Fascial Stretching at Home
- Sit up nice and tall and expand your arms and let your head drop back and just see where you feel tight if you feel tightness in your arms and your chest in the front of your head. You can play around with your head position.
- Drop it down and just see where you feel tightness may be on the side of your head so if you're not going to lay on the foam roller, you can just find a position where you can drop your head over to one side or back a little bit. Wherever you feel the tension in your neck or your shoulder.
- If you have a foam roller or a blanket or some pillows, come up on top of them and sit towards the end and then just gently bring your body back onto the pillows, onto the cushion, and onto the roller.
- If you don't have anything and you're not lying on your back, find a position where you can lower your head or your neck or your arms and feel a stretch.
- if you're on your back, bring your arms to your side with your palms facing up. Palms facing up is important. Close your eyes whether you're on your back or you're sitting, start feeling your body. Feel into your body where you feel tight and see if you could start to soften a little bit. When you notice that tension, start to let it soften just a bit. You don't have to stay in one position.
- As you start to soften and open up, slide your arms a little more out to the side in a little like a T position and see if you feel more of a stretch doing that. Stay there for a couple of seconds and breathe into it. Breathe into your tight spaces again and play around with your positioning.
- If you're on your back you might want to bend your elbows still with your palms up and your arms resting down to allow it to open you up even more.
- After 5 minutes, if you're on a foam roller on your back over pillows, gently roll to the side and come on up. If you're just sitting, then you can just come back up to a neutral position and see how you felt initially and see if you feel any different.
If you're by yourself, close your eyes, feel into your body and just start listening to your body.
This probably feels like a long time to hold the stretch for most people but you’ll get an idea of what it feels like to actually feel into your body and open up your facial system.
Keep your eyes closed. It helps to allow you to feel and to turn off your thinking brain. Turn on the feeling side of your brain and just let yourself sink into the stretch. Breathe into your tight spots and allow your body to just start to open up. If you're on your back over a roller you can play with your arm position.
You may feel like one arm wants to really stretch up over your head, maybe the other arm just wants to be out to the side, anything is possible.
Myofascial release is very individualized. It allows you to just feel into your own body so just keep breathing, keep feeling into your stretch.
You’ll feel more open, feel a little bit less pain in the front of your body. Compare that to how you feel later today. It is a really simple exercise you can do at home. You don't need a foam roller, you can do it over the pillows, over a blanket and obviously, you can just do it in your chair for a couple of minutes. Take a break and open up your fascial system and give your posture some rest.
This particular stretch is so important because most people are tight in their chest. It's just a result of our world today, our technological world, phones, computers, and sitting at our desks. If you just start opening yourself up every day and do this long, you’ll feel better.
Q&A with Rachele
Q: We all probably do the same thing sitting at our desks all day. What do you recommend should we be doing to be comfortable at our desk?
A:I always recommend people try to get up at least once every hour. An hour goes really quickly so if you put a timer on your phone to help you to get up every hour and stretch over, pull your arms, move and walk around a little bit and then sit back down. It's gonna give you a great break from your work. If you have a longer amount of time, get on the ground, do some stretches, feel into your body.
If you have some time, stay there a little bit and stretch into it. We can talk a lot more about specific posture sitting at the desk. But just getting up, breaking up your day is really important. Put on reminders because you won't do it unless you start putting a reminder on to actually do it.
Our bodies have an unbelievable ability to heal themselves. We have to quiet down and listen to it. As a society, we don't do that. We've been taught to ignore pain, shove it down with medication, with too much talking, too much drinking, too much exercise, too much of anything. When you do that and you don't listen to your pain, you don't listen to your body, you're setting yourself up for disaster. So quieting down, closing your eyes, coming inward is going to open you up to other tightness you might have in your body.
ABOUT RACHELE DeCRECENZO
Rachele DeCrescenzo is a physical therapist specializing in John Barnes Myofascial Release. She’s been a PT for 17 years now, and in the last four to five years, she focused on studying, schooling, and practicing on Myofascial Release that she calls “The Healing Journey”.
Please go to my website The Healing Journey there's tons of information about fascia and myofascial release. There are also links to the past videos I've done for Relax Teams which give a lot of great information about this wonderful modality.
Get to know Rachele DeCrescenzo more! https://relaxteams.com/products/rachele-decrescenzo-physical-therapist
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