What is Fascial Unwinding and Why is it Important?
First, let’s start with what fascia is. Fascia is the strong, connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, nerves, arteries/veins, as well as organs and the spinal cord and brain. It’s like a spider web or the yarn of a sweater. It is one continuous structure throughout the body and because of this, it can impact overall body functions. There are more receptors in the fascial tissue than there are in muscles. You may have heard reference to myofascial tissue – which is specifically the fascia surrounding muscles. Think of lifting the skin off a piece of chicken and seeing that transparent layer that is between the skin and the meat (muscle) – that is connective tissue.
When the fascia is in a healthy state, it is relaxed and more wavy. Trauma/injury to the body can cause the fascial tissue to become taut, restricted and put pressure on the structures of the body that is in enveloping (ie: nerves, vessels, muscles) and affect their function. Less than optimal position in the womb (which you may or may not have been aware of) during pregnancy and birth trauma can both lead to changes in the fascia and fascial restriction. Even a seemingly “normal” birth can be quite traumatic for a newborn. Symptoms from fascial tensions may be present immediately or they may not be so obvious until the baby grows a little and the tension in the tissue becomes even more taut and hinders function.
What can tension/restriction of the fascial tissue create? Well, first off – I don’t mean to burst the bubble of any parent that is proud of their newborn or one week old’s ability to already hold their head up. I’m sorry – it’s not that you have a very strong baby. Your baby does not have the muscle control to do that as a newborn. What you are actually seeing is the result of very tight fascial tissue that is actually pulling on the neck and skull, causing the baby to be able to “hold their head up”. Fascial restrictions are also often the culprit when it comes to a baby that is not comfortable lying flat and therefore they want to be held all the time or will cry when in their bed or car seat. Fascial restrictions can often be a large contributing factor in cases of “colic”/excessive crying, general fussiness, reflux and digestive issues due to their impact on such structures as the intestines, diaphragm, esophageal sphincter and vagus nerve.
Fascial unwinding is a manual therapy that is used to alleviate these tensions and restrictions in the fascial tissue and thus restore the integrity, balance and function of the fascial tissue and the structures it surrounds. The therapy is truly “baby guided” and is a gentle procedure where the doctor simply takes pressure off the body by holding the baby in a certain position or applying a gentle pressure and then follows the baby’s body as it “unwinds”. The best way to describe this is to think of an old fashioned telephone cord (if you’re old enough to remember one!). If the cord got twisted, you would let the receiver/phone hang down and let the cord spin and unwind. This is a simplified description but essentially the same concept.
Fascial tissue has memory as well. You may have heard of muscle memory. The same is true of fascial tissue. The saying goes that “the body never forgets”. It holds onto both physical and emotional memories. I can tell you that on a number of occasions during a fascial unwinding session, I have witnessed a baby recreate its birth process or go into its position in the womb. The “unwinding process” allows the baby to let go of these stored, restricted patterns in the tissue and return to a more balanced state. This process may occur all at once or more often, it occurs in increments over multiple sessions.