New Knowledge To Help Me Help You!

Anatomy Trains

In order to maintain my licensure for massage in Kentucky I am required to take at least 24 hours of continuing education classes every two years.  This insures that I am continually learning theory and techniques to grow my skills.

This weekend I took a class called Anatomy Trains.  Anatomy Trains are a way of looking at the continuous connections between muscles, bones, and even organs that allow forces to be distributed through the body for efficient movement, posture and stability.

Much of the connection and distribution of force relies on connective tissue.  Every organ, bone, nerve, blood vessel, and muscle is covered with a matrix of connective tissue fibers.  Muscles are completely inundated with these fibers separating muscle bellies, groups of muscle cells within the bellies, and even individual fibers.  This tissue becomes tendons that attach muscles to bone flowing then into the fibrous tissue that covers the bone itself.  It is completely continuous throughout the body forming a three dimensional web of fluid-filled support giving us form and allowing our organs and muscles to move with and around each other.

The organization of this tissue along with muscles, bones, ligaments, and tendons forms continuous lines within the body called myofascial meridians, the fancy term for Anatomy Trains.  We typically look only at individual muscles used for a particular movement or posture.   Awareness of myofascial meridians allows you to see how these muscles and their connective tissues recruit other parts of the body to increase efficiency and power.

For a demonstration stand still and use only your arm and shoulder to throw a ball.  It probably didn’t go very far.   Next, wind up your throw by putting your arm behind you and rotating your torso then release the ball using your whole body in a twisting motion toward the opposite side like baseball players do.  That really gets some power and distance!  There are myofascial meridians that allow for both of these rotational movements.  The force propelling the ball doesn’t come only from the shoulder but from a functional line that includes the chest, ribcage, abdomen, and thigh.  The muscles used in the wind up which include muscles of the back, hips, and thighs act as a brake in the throwing movement.  As one of my instructors pointed out without the braking from the back myofascial meridian if you were to throw a ball at 90 mph as some baseball players do your arm would be ripped out of its socket!  Of course without the front line you wouldn’t be able to throw that fast anyway and sports wouldn’t be nearly so exciting.

When injured, overused, misused, or interrupted with scar tissue from injury or surgery tissues in a myofascial meridian can affect other parts of the body.  One of the meridians responsible for our standing posture runs all the way from the forehead to the bottom of the foot.  Because of this distant but still intimate connection tension in the plantar fascia of the foot or a tight calf muscle can contribute to back or neck pain and even headaches!

Try this:  (Don’t do this if you have scoliosis or acute back injury)

  • Do a forward bend with your legs kept straight and notice how far you can bend and how the tension feels from your feet to your head.
  • Next massage the bottom of one foot by rolling it over a tennis ball for a couple of minutes.  Work slowly and deliberately finding the sore spots.  Work deeply enough that you feel a good kind of pain.
  • Now do a forward bend again noticing differences in the massaged side and the un-treated side.  Can you bend farther?  Is there less tension in your leg, back, or neck on that side?
  • Don’t forget to even yourself out by working the other foot!

For many people there will be a definite feeling of decreased tension in the line running from the foot to the head.  Decreasing tension in one small part of the line affects the whole.

This new knowledge has made me look at the body in a more holistic manner and is changing my approach when clients come in with a specific problem.  I am learning to observe the body so that I can see tension in these myofascial meridians and treat areas I would not have seen as part of the problem before.  I am also using new techniques to engage and release connective tissues in the myofascial meridians.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about how I can help you with your pain.


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