Are you driving your body with the brakes on?

Trying to move with tension in the fascia is like trying to drive a car with the parking brake on.

by Mary Peterson — 

Our bodies come equipped with a complex system of interconnected tissue that runs like a web from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. This “fascia” covers every other system and structure, creating compartments that unify the body to give it strength and support.

When an injury or trauma occurs in one area of the body, that tension is transmitted through the fascia to every other tissue. Just like with a web, the smallest tug is felt by the entire system. When too many tensions accumulate in the body, your day-to-day functioning can be compromised by pain, fatigue and decreased movement.

Trying to move with tension in the fascia is like trying to drive a car with the parking brake on. You expend a lot more effort and end up feeling fatigued and burned out. This increased wear and tear on your system can further result in inflammation and irritation of the muscles and joints, decreased range of movement and ultimately chronic pain.

Unfortunately, all too often that pain is addressed simply with medication designed to mask the symptoms instead of relieving the underlying problem. However, when gentle, soft-tissue techniques are used by a practitioner who is skilled at listening to the voice of the body, the source of the friction often can be identified and relieved.

This creates a positive chain reaction throughout the body, allowing multiple tissues to relax and “release the parking brake.” When that happens, pain in locations even far from the original tension can be relieved.

A nice example of this was Carla, a middle-aged woman who came for help with her right shoulder. She was on anti-inflammatory medications and had been through an extensive therapy program of exercise and joint manipulation, yet she still was experiencing a great deal of discomfort. She struggled to sleep at night, put on her shirt in the morning and even reach overhead.

When Carla’s fascial system was evaluated, the practitioner could feel that the tissues pulling on her shoulder were actually coming from near her liver, which is below the ribs on the right side of the body. When asked about it, she mentioned a car accident she had been in 15 years earlier. The motion forces and the crush of her seat belt likely created the long-held fascial tensions that wound their way through her body and eventually affected her shoulder.

As Carla was treated with gentle, hands-on techniques designed to release those deeply held patterns, she gradually felt a freedom of movement in her shoulder. Her range of motion increased, she began to sleep better at night, and she even stopped her anti-inflammatory medication. Exercise became a positive experience because she was no longer re-irritating symptoms as if her parking brake was on.

Over a series of sessions, the tension was released around the liver and other areas distant to her shoulder. Finally, she regained full, pain-free use of her arm.

In cases of puzzling pain conditions like these, you can only begin the natural process of self-correction when you relieve stress at the source. Once you do that, the parking brake can finally be released and the rest of the body can glide easily back into place.


Mary Peterson, P.T., M.S. Ed., works with people in pain who want to create a new relationship with their bodies. For 19 years, she has offered gentle therapies through customized treatment plans., or 480-998-1646.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 6, December 2007/January 2008.

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