back pain

Is Your Pain In Your Tissues? Back Pain, Neck Pain and Soft Tissue Injuries

An Insight Into The John F. Barnes Myofascial Release ApproachTM


Have you tried everything to relieve yourself of this ongoing pain?


Some ground-breaking research in the scientific world provides an exciting opportunity for those suffering from long term back pain, neck pain and soft tissue injuries and various other conditions (eg fibromyalgia) causing unexplained pain. The most important and riveting are the understanding of the body’s forgotten system – the fascial system, glial cells and cellular consciousness.


The Fascial System

The fascial system, the body’s fluid system (the human body is up to 70% water), is in fact the body’s meta-system – it surrounds and infuses every other system, every muscle, every bone, every blood vessel, every nerve and every cell in the body. As well, it is also the body’s primary communication system as it facilitates cell-to-cell communication. The fascial system is in the state of liquid crystalline (gel) – this is known as the fourth phase of water as it the state of matter between a liquid and solid. Dr Carol Davis, a physical therapy lecturer from the University of Miami and a fascia researcher has compiled the latest findings on Fascia Research from the world’s leading researchers.


Glial Cells

Glial cells, the fascial complex of the brain, outnumber neurons 9 to 1 and have been overlooked by medical researchers for centuries. Once considered simply packing material for the neurons, they are now considered vital for brain functioning – Scientific American – Dr Andrew Koob


Glial Cells and Fascia
ref:flickr/Functional Neurogenesis


Cellular Consciousness

Dr Bruce Lipton, a 40 year veteran of cellular biology, discovered through his research at Stanford University that each cell in the body is controlled by its membrane and not the nucleus and its genes. When he removed the nucleus from cells – the cells survived for a few months. However, when the membrane (the fascia) is removed, the cell dies. As such, it is the environment of the cell (the fascia) that determines the health of our cells. For further reading, Dr Lipton has compiled an interesting public lecture Biology of Belief and you can refer to his website Bruce Lipton – Cellular Consciousness


Fascia and Fibromyalgia


What Causes the Pain? Back Pain, Neck Pain and Soft Tissue Injuries

So how does all this research on the fascial system, glial cells and cellular consciousness relate to Pain?

Firstly, let’s breakdown a term commonly used to describe soft tissue pain – ie Fibromyalgia

  • Fibro refers to fibrous tissues;
  • myo means muscle; and
  • algia refers to pain

The fibro element is ultimately the most important as it refers to the fascia. The fascia makes up about 80% of our connective tissue. However, simply referring to it as fibrous is quite misleading as the fascia is not only fibrous but also fluid. The fibrous elements are made up of two proteins – elastin and collagen. The elastin provides the flexibility to the tissue and collagen, the body’s most abundant protein, provides the firmness. In addition to these two fibres, the fluid medium of the fascia is the ground substance. The ground substance is gel-like and it’s most prevalent component is water.


Living fascia was first videoed under the microscope by Dr JC Guimberteau:


The muscle, which makes up about 20% of the soft tissue is predominantly elastin – it provides the spring to our tissue. Muscle is embedded with fascia to form myofascial tissue.

Dr Carol Davis explains further:


Every incidence of back pain, neck pain and soft tissue injury is unique to the individual and the pain – “algia” – levels can vary from one person to another and can affect various part of the body. The development of pain may be as a result of any type of injury, trauma or stress incident and the onset may not occur until sometime after the incident.


When our body undergoes injury, trauma or stress there are two quite well known reactions – they are the fight or flight response. There is also an additional but less well known response known as the “freeze” response and when this occurs there are actually changes to the fascia at the cellular level. The tissue changes state from a healthy liquid crystalline to a solid (dehydrated fascia). When this occurs, fascial restrictions develop as the cell loses its fluidity. Where the fascia once glided over muscles, nerves, etc, it now places crushing pressure at up to 2,000 pounds per square inch (Katake, K. The strength for tension and bursting of human fasciae, J. Kyoto Pref. Med. Univ., 1969: 484-488, 1961) on pain sensitive structures.


As the fascia, the membrane of a cell, has changed state, the function of the cell becomes inhibited. The cell becomes irritated as the dehydrated ground substance is like gravel and thus leads to inflammation of the cell. In addition, the cell’s ability to take on nutrients, water and communication is restricted and the capacity to flush toxins is reduced.


Can We Return the Fascia to a Liquid Crystalline State After Pain, Trauma or Stress?

Firstly, we must appreciate that solidity is an illusion. That is, matter has the capacity to change state. Just like when you go to a hairdresser and they have spray bottles – the content is water, what they spray into your hair is spray water and if you were to freeze the bottle – the water would turn to ice.


However, in order to change the state of a protein, time is essential. For example, when we boil an egg, a protein, it takes around 3-5 minutes for the egg to completely change states from a liquid to a solid.


Fascia - Liquid Cristalline


Fascia, made up of proteins and water, has the capacity to return to its normal and vibrant, healthy state. In fact, the body does this naturally every second of the day. However, in the case of fibromyalgia, significant fascial restrictions have developed and a specialised therapist trained by John F. Barnes can assist in softening the fascia and returning it to a natural state.


What Is The Approach?

John F. Barnes, an American physical therapist who has trained over 100,000 health professionals, developed the Indirect Myofascial Release Approach over 50 years ago. The John F. Barnes Myofascial Release ApproachTM is a hands-on therapy that involves using gentle, sustained pressure of between 5-7 minutes to allow phase transition in the body’s soft tissue to occur. Sustained pressure allows for the fascia to be rehydrated and return to its natural healthy state of liquid crystalline. Science also shows that at the 5 minute mark of sustained pressure the body starts to produce interleukin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory. At the 7 minute marks this doubles.


Unlike other approaches that are based on pain-management, Barnes’ approach addresses the body at the cellular level and as such leads to permanent changes to the connective tissue.


What does the treatment involve?

A skilled Barnes’ trained Myofascial Therapist will evaluate correlations in your symptoms and listen in depth regarding your medical history. In order to establish what is causing the pain, a thorough assessment of the body that includes range of motion testing and measurement is performed.


Treatment is unique to each individual and the therapist will address areas of tightness using structural myofascial release (sustained pressure) as mentioned earlier. In addition to structural work, therapists will include myofascial rebounding and myofascial unwinding into sessions where appropriate.

Myofascial Release
Myofascial Release


Myofascial Rebounding is a gentle rocking motion that has 3 key benefits. Firstly, by gently rocking the body, waves of water move throughout the body and gradually wear away at restricted fascia, much like waves in the ocean wear away a cliff face. Secondly, as the water moves throughout the body the cells start to adapt to the rhythm and this encourages the cells to communicate in unison with each other. Finally, it provides a very beneficial assessment tool. For when our body is fluid, the tissue is generally unrestricted. However, where the body doesn’t flow, this is indicative of tight, restricted fascia.


Unwinding is the body’s natural healing mechanism and sometimes during treatment the body will start to move into positions where the body is restricted. A skilled therapist will hold your body in these positions and wait for a full release in the muscle and fascia to occur.


One of the keys to Barnes’ approach is to give clients the tools and information required to treat themselves in between hands-on treatments. Self-treatment often involves using an MFR ball or CranioCradle.


To find out more regarding the John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release ApproachTM you can refer to If you are looking for therapists in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand, a quite detailed directory is available here


This article was written by Sheldon Stackpoole of MFR Brisbane. He is an Australian-based Myofascial Therapist who has trained extensively with John Barnes in the USA. For more information you can refer to his site at

  • reply Mary Winslow ,

    Excellent article!

    • reply BLOG ,

      […] explained in this stellar article  from MFR Brisbane, the fascia is our “meta-system,” acting as the body’s vital cell-to-cell […]

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