(For a current list of classes and downloadable course descriptions, go directly to the Classes page. )
Why it is helpful to work specifically with nerves and arteries:
Nerves and arteries can get trapped in the myofascial layers, specifically in the intermuscular septa. They can also get caught where they go around a “corner” or pass through a layer, just as a garden hose gets caught around a tree when you are working in the yard. (If you yank on it to pull it free, it may get more stuck, restricting the flow of water. It is usually best to go the place where it is caught and unhook it.) “Downstream” of these caught or stuck places, you can have reduced sensation (numbness), pain, low muscle tonus, or high muscle tonus.
Additionally, when nerves or arteries have been injured through overstretch, they are repaired with collagen fibers, just like any other tissue. These repair fibers make a nerve or artery stiffer and less responsive to stretch. The body recognizes a stiff artery as something it should protect (it doesn’t want a vessel rupture), so it disallows movement. With injured and repaired nerves, stiffness in one section makes adjacent “stretchier” sections of the nerve more vulnerable to repeated overstretch injury, because there is less slack available in the network. This leads to new inflammation and additional repair response as the body tries to “shore up” the newly vulnerable areas adjacent to the original repair.
This process can turn an initially small traumatic injury into a chronically stiff, painful, and problematic region that affects the entire body. Tissue balance around a joint, functional range of motion, speed, agility, strength, and overall posture can all be compromised. There are many manual strategies for addressing these kinds of movement problems, but often the traditional therapeutic approaches are not specific enough to deal well with the “repair fibers” that bind up nerves and/or limit artery stretch. In fact, traditional manual therapy approaches can end up further traumatizing nerves and arteries without fully resolving the movement issue, which can lead to the situation where a client or patient migrates from one practitioner to the next without getting satisfactory results. So frustrating for everyone!
Freeing up a specific nerve or artery, so that it can glide more freely, or providing a very specific, slow, and gentle stretch for part of the neural or vascular network, can hugely improve muscle function, liberate movement, and realign joints. Finding the right combination of nerves and arteries to release can be the missing key to addressing a complex issue.
Whether you realize it or not, you have already been working manually with nerves and arteries. Wouldn’t you like to fine tune your map of the neural and vascular system and hone your ability to work artfully around and with these structures? Your clients will be amazed and thankful.
About half of the techniques that I teach are artery-specific release techniques, such as the one demonstrated above. Artery release has a different feel from nerve release, because arteries are less fibrous. Sometimes the muscle belly itself will serve as a “handle” on the artery network. In the case above, traction inferiorly on the profound femoral artery and superficial femoral artery provides the other “handle.” The smaller artery branches which stem laterally from the main branches of femoral artery are effectively lengthened when you draw down on the main two “pipes” and then laterally on the tertiary “pipes.” Note that you must start with the muscle (and the artery supplying it) in slack before you take it laterally. When I speak about “bowing” the TFL laterally, I am talking about working perpendicular to the muscle fiber direction, gathering the muscle laterally rather than sliding cross-fiber, which is only possible if the muscle is slackened. The muscle is hypertonic to begin with because the arteries are already tensioned. It is an interesting phenomenon that artery tension to muscle makes the muscle tight.
The nerve techniques taught in this class will combine the Barral approach to reducing strain or tension in the neural net (which is a visceral approach) with a more fascial approach to improving neural glide and extensibility. Both are effective. A visceral approach emphasizes feeling and working with the fluid pressure in the nerve, whereas a fascial approach emphasizes paying attention to fiber orientation, and to whether there is adequate differentiation between layers of fascia. Doing neurally and vascularly informed myofascial work — differentiating fascial layers in order to liberate nerves and arteries — will improve glide within the areolar layers of fascia and at the “tunnels” or “sleeves” where nerves and vascular structures perforate a layer of fascia.
Teachers who have informed my practice:
My initial study of neural manipulation was with Christoph Sommer (2006, 2009) and Don Hazen (2007-2008). I also assisted Jon Martine with his neural mobilization classes (2009-2010), when he came through my home town. More recently (2011-2012), I have studied intensively with Jeffrey Burch. With Jeff I have primarily studied visceral manipulation and osteopathic methods, but I’ve also picked up some of his tricks for working with nerves and arteries. Studying with Jeff has been invaluable, and I have since been developing my own approaches to vascular release aimed at balancing structure.
My structural integration practice is now based on what I am calling “neurovascularly informed” myofascial work. I can no longer not pay attention to nerves and arteries as I work with the myofascia. This advanced fascial release work is amazingly efficient, and it is very fun to teach.