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What’s up with all these fascia tools?

One day a client of mine sent me a text asking me about a fascia tool that she’s seen advertised on Facebook. The tool promised to get rid of cellulite by physically affecting fascia. She mentioned she purchased one of these tools on Amazon and proceeded to work on her legs (she’s got tight quads and hamstrings).

The next day she showed up at my office and I was shocked to see the amount of bruises on her legs. They were only painful to the touch and unfortunately, her tightness had not changed.

Photo of legs bruised by fascia tools

This led to a discussion of what it is that I do when I’m doing bodywork and the effectiveness of these fascia tools.

The debate over what’s done through bodywork is still raging. In 2012 an interesting article came out that sought to dispel some myths. Check out this article for one point of view. The famous Tom Myers also had a say in the matter as well.

I do like to feel that I know what I’m doing but I also know we are in the age of information and one theory can quickly be replaced by another. Are we working and affecting fascia? Are we working and affecting the nervous system? I think we’re doing a little bit of both but am happy to wait for the latest research. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the results of my work.

With respect to fascia, we do have some facts. We know that fascia has the same tensile strength as steel (soft steel to be exact). That’s right, fascia has, weight for weight, the tensile strength of about 42,000 lbs. per square inch. For reference on the exact figures, please read, TENSILE STRENGTH AND ELASTICITY TESTS ON HUMAN FASCIA LATA (CHAS. MURRAY GRATZ – The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery)

So, fascia is pretty crazy strong. Can a plastic fascia tool really physically affect fascia? Not at all, that much is clear. Are those fascia tools doing something, anything? Maybe. My suspicion is that these tools are reducing the look of cellulite by initiating some inflammation response (remember the bruises on my client!) and ‘puffing’ up the client’s legs so the cellulite isn’t noticed. This is just a guess as no research that I’m aware of has focused on these fascia tools.

One of my colleagues and an authority on Dermo-Neuro Modulation, Rey Allen, has a few words on the subject: “As for my views on these scraping tools, it's sadly all a gimmick, appealing to people's desire for a quick fix and profiting off those less knowledgeable on the neurophysiology of pain. Unfortunately, this includes the majority of clinicians. Here's the deal, these scraping tools *can* alleviate tension, aches, and pains but only temporality. That's because any new stimulus, whether that comes from our mechanical (rubbing, movement), thermal (hot/cold), or chemical (icy hot, Ben Gay, Tiger Balm) receptors, literally distracts the brain from the previous sensation as the new stimulus temporarily overrides the old sensations.”

Look, I’m the last person to stand in the way of an entrepreneur but I will also tell my clients in the case of seeking out a fascia tool that the adage is true, “Buyer Beware”. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. My advice, put your hard earned money towards seeking a session from a skillful bodyworker, it will be better spent.

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