Among the many health benefits of massage is one that will surprise the novice: the ability to manipulate fascia. Fascia are body components located between the skin and the underlying muscle. It's here that inflammation and injuries can produce damage that can be encouraged to heal by a good massage.

The fascia form a system of connective tissue that covers muscles, organs and skeletal components. As such, working on one area often has effects that are carried over a farther distance. Working fascia has effects not only laterally, but down as well. Since they cover the muscles, pressing on them presses down and out simultaneously.

To better picture this, imagine a sheet drawn tightly over a bed. That sheet (fascia) covers the mattress (muscle). When you press down at one point with a finger, you don't just create an indentation the size and shape of your finger that goes straight down. It tends to create a shape resembling an upside-down tent.

That's the result of the sheet being flexible, but attached all around the rim under the mattress, particularly at the four corners where the tension is greatest. A similar effect occurs with fascia. Since it is a web that runs throughout the system, pressing it affects those areas to a greater or lesser degree.

MyNutritionStore.com states that using the knuckles or elbows, moderate pressure is applied to the fascia, through the skin. Moving slowly, using a technique called direct myofascial release, the practitioner works through the layers, finally reaching the deep tissue. One popular variation is the so-called 'Rolfing' technique, developed by Dr. Ida Rolf in the 1950s.

Placing a line of tension that takes up the slack in tissue, the fascia are moved across the surface. It's important here to seek client feedback since the technique can be painful if improperly carried out, or if the recipient has injuries or sensitivities.

Employing indirect fascia release can alleviate some of this concern. The pressure is less, a larger surface area (such as the heel of the palm) is used and more time is allowed for the fascia to react. One result is more heat created within the tissue, which helps stimulate blood flow. That circulation brings fresh blood to the tissues and carries away toxins.

Whenever muscles are manipulated in massage, the fascia are always involved, since they cover the entire area. Keeping sustained pressure over time is key to utilizing the technique safely and effectively.

Both direct and indirect fascia release grow out of the world of physical therapy. As such, it requires some training and practice in order to use properly. A client's health is always uppermost and, like physicians, massage therapists need to adopt and adapt a portion of the Hippocratic oath. 'First, do no harm.'

Author's Bio: 

Each week, over one million people enjoy a wellness and personal development program created by John Spencer Ellis. His programs are implemented in the top resorts, spas and health clubs. John is the CEO of the National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association (NESTA), the Spencer Institute for Life Coaching, and the Get America Fit Foundation. He is the VP of Business Development for MyNutritionStore.com, and on the Advisory Boards of the National Health, Wellness and Prevention Congress, Exercise TV, Sleep Number Bed, Medical Wellness Association, Irvine Valley College, Life & Leisure TV and Health Journal Television. He is a Fellow of the National Board of Fitness Examiners, the author of How Badly Do You Want It? - Your Ultimate Guide to Optimal Fitness, The Compass, The Well Couple (2009), and a contributor to Power of Champions and Peak Vitality.

"John is a combination of Tony Robbins & Jack Lalanne" - The New York Post

John is the former Fitness Editor for OC Flair magazine and created Adventure Boot Camp, the largest fitness boot camp system in the world. His TriActive America signature series of outdoor exercise equipment is used worldwide. John has been featured on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX, FOX Sports, FOX Reality, SPIKE and ESPN. He is the fitness and lifestyle expert on Bravo's The Real Housewives of Orange County and Daybreak OC (KDOC news). John has also appeared on Starting Over, Life Moments and Camp Reality. He is the executive producer of the documentary The Compass. He hosts The Fit Show, Core 360 Personal Gym infomercial, PersonalTrainerTV.com, The OC Body, The Spencer Power Hour radio show, and the Ms. Fitness U.S.A. and World pageants. He stars in the workout DVDs Playground Boot Camp & Kung-Fu Fitness, created programs used by Cirque du Soleil, the U.S. Secret Service, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, and consults the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships). John is featured in the movie Riches (2009). He was nominated for induction to the Fitness Hall of Fame.

"World-renowned Fitness Expert" -CBS News

John holds two bachelors degrees (business & health science), an MBA, and a doctorate in education. He also completed doctoral level studies in naturopathy. He holds fifteen certifications including massage therapy, plyometrics, self-defense, fitness kick boxing, fitness boxing, nutrition coaching, water fitness, exercise rehabilitation, golf conditioning, Pilates, personal training, clinical hypnotherapy, sports hypnosis, PACE circuit training and yoga. John is a member of the American Sleep Association, National Sleep Foundation, and the American Academy of Anti-aging Medicine. He holds a 2nd degree black belt in kung-fu, completed the Ironman triathlon, and finished 5th at the U.S. National Biathlon Championships. His medical training includes a license in radiological technology, a medical assisting certification, and training in McKenzie rehabilitation. He has specialized training in ropes course facilitation and corporate teambuilding. John was nominated for the California Community College Distinguished Alumni Award.