How Muscle Adhesions Are Formed And How To Fix Them
One of the most common forms of pain in the body is due to fibrous adhesions. The formation of adhesions is the body’s response to injury, trauma, and overuse. These adhesions form in the soft tissue of the body, and over time, can build up to limit mobility, decrease strength, and cause pain.
How muscle adhesions occur
The bones of the body move with the help of the muscle and connective tissue surrounding them. Tendons, ligaments, and fascia all are made up collagen, fibers and fluid. When you do any sort of challenging exercise or sustain an injury it creates small tears in the muscle, called ‘microtrauma’.
Think of muscle fibers like a group of resistance bands. When one band develops a tear due to overuse, collagen clumps form on the weakened band, sticking to the strong bands nearby and over time, creating a knot, or scar tissue. Scar tissue has less flexibility than muscle or fascia, leading to decreased mobility and flexibility.
When a microtrauma doesn’t heal completely or properly, the body creates collagen, to heal the damaged tissue. The collagen fibers clump together but without the alignment of the natural structure in the tissue, and unlike the smooth soft tissues in the muscle or fascia, the adhesion is “sticky”. The fascia begins to “stick” to other tissues, which creates tension from those tissues pulling on each other. You can think of fascia like cling wrap -- it clings to itself and other tissues until you can flatten it out.
Tight fascia can create poor movement patterns, causing the body to shift out of alignment and increasing pressure on muscles and joints. Over time, the muscles can become compressed and contorted. All of which can lead to discomfort and tightness, restricted joint range of motion, along with muscular imbalance and pain. In addition, you lose hydration and blood flow in that area.
How to treat adhesions
Myofascia is the strong, fibrous connective tissue that supports and separates the muscles of the body. Manipulating your fascia can help eradicate pain and hasten fluid flow to the tissues that are stagnant or stuck.
Eliminating the adhesions and working the soft tissue will cause a release of cellular matrix that then lubricates everything in that area. You need to respect your connective tissue and fluff it up from the inside out.
The goal of Self Myofascial Release (SMR) is to stretch and loosen the fascia so the underlying tissue can move freely, restore blood flow (blood doesn’t flow too well through knots, as you can imagine) and reestablish proper function. In effect, what we are doing is irritating the tissue to produce a chemical response. The chemicals produced are what begin the healing process; which is why soft tissue work is often painful and can leave you feeling similar to a workout the next day.
Start by rolling the ball over the targeted soft tissue. When you find a trigger point within the soft tissue, stop and just rest on the ball for 10 to 20 seconds. Avoid applying pressure on bones and joints. Rest a few seconds, then repeat.
It may be uncomfortable but it shouldn't be excruciating, somewhere between a 4 and 7 on your pain meter. It may feel tender to the touch, like a good kind of hurt. If you are holding your breath or clenching your teeth, that's when you know it’s too much. The tissue will tighten up if you work it too hard. Pay attention to what you're feeling when you use the ball.
Treating the adhesion only takes a few minutes. As a general rule of thumb, the amount of time necessary to get the derived benefits is directly related to your current tissue quality. In other words, if you have really terrible tissue quality or are unfamiliar with this kind of work, you’ll need more work to bring it up to par. In contrast, the more familiar you become with the techniques and the easier it becomes, the less time you should need.
Make sure you're drinking plenty of fluids. Connective tissue in the body is made up of collagen, fibers and fluid, and needs to be hydrated to promote healing. Once you start to open stuff up and move stuff around, you have to have some fluids to flush it out.
When to seek professional treatment
SMR is just one technique to help release the buildup of fibers to promote healing in the body. An experienced chiropractor can help with additional adjustments to support better posture and alignment within the body, or identify a more targeted treatment. Massage therapy is another alternative treatment for adhesions.