How fascial stretch and manual therapy can get to the root of trauma with Sheena Jethva.
We spoke to Sheena Jethva, the founder of The Stretch Girl. Sheena has formulated a healing approach called Passive Fascial Release Therapy (PFR Therapy) that combines fascial stretch, manual therapy, muscle assessments, rehabilitation techniques, and self-release stretches. Sheena's treatments follow the belief that every body carries trauma differently, but everyone can be healed.
For Sheena, the key to everlasting healing is understanding that pain is not perpetual and that in our fast-paced society, it is so easy to lose track of what is going on inside our own bodies. Sheena reminds us that we are not supposed to live in pain and that by doing so, we are just consenting to a never-ending cycle of trauma. One of the most rewarding aspects of Sheena's work at the Stretch Girl is getting to the root of trauma to release it in lasting and meaningful ways. This is accomplished by establishing profound connections with her clients. By asking the important questions, she is able to understand all of the factors contributing to her client's pain and develop a tailored approach to healing.
What exactly is our fascia and how is it connected to other parts of our body?
Our fascia is connective tissue that is found throughout the body. It is a sheath that covers our whole muscular system and is critical in how our bodies move and function.
When our fascia or myofascial is bound in one area of the body, you can experience pain, injury, discomfort, or tension in a completely different area of the body. Fascia exists as chains and runs the entire front of our body (from under the neck, down to our toes OR the front of the head all the way to the back of our feet)
By looking at the myofascial chains of the body and understanding where someone may be tense, we can get to the source of a lot of pain rather than just focusing on the symptom.
What is fascial release therapy and who is a candidate for this type of treatment?
Passive Fascial Release Therapy is a method I have developed over the past 10 years and involves doing very little during our treatment. By passively moving the body along the chains and addressing specific tissues, we are able to loosen the fascial chains and then free up knots in muscle tissue to global body pain relief. Anyone is a candidate for fascia release therapy. However, the only time I suggest waiting for treatment is if you are in your first trimester of pregnancy or if you have just given birth up to six weeks postpartum.
How can we use cupping for pain relief? What exactly does it do?
Cupping therapy is so diverse and can be found in a number of ancient Chinese medicine practices, such as hot cupping and in middle eastern medicine called wet cupping, as well as western medicine.
I approach cupping like so: imagine a knot in your body that, no matter how much you try to apply pressure, it never let's go. You get massages, foam roll, hot baths, heat pads the list goes on. Cupping therapy allows the tissue to be lifted up and off of itself, which can free up those layers of bound tissue causing the knot and then release it. By releasing the knot, cupping also frees up a lot of stagnation that can happen above and below the chain of fascia. It is ALL connected!
Are there any movements we can do on our own at home to help with fascia release and pain?
The first is hydrating our body; when the body is hydrated, tissue moves a lot easier! Imagine a dry dish sponge versus a wet dish sponge. Which one is easier to use? Now imagine that the dish sponge is our muscle tissue and the fascia is interwoven within it. We need to be hydrated!
Next up are self-stretches. Any stretch you do will help your myofascial tissue and muscle tissue release and open up.
When I am working one on one with a client, I always ensure the proper homework is provided. That can include self-stretches, strengthening exercises, or lifestyle support such as hydration or supplement suggestions.
You have a holistic approach to pain management. What type of mental support do you provide your clients with and what is the connection of our mental state to our physical ailments?
I truly believe that along with treating our physical body we MUST look into our mental, emotional, and spiritual body. For example, if someone comes in with lower back pain, I will go through their history and slowly start to assess their body. If I’m finding a lot of tension in their front chain, more specific to the hip flexors, lower abdominal and upper quadriceps, I may ask if they have had any uprooting recently—a new job, big shift/change in their life, or digestive issues.
We will talk about what is happening and work through the mental and emotional aspects of what they are holding on to or going through. This helps with clearing and rebalancing the root chakra.
Energy centers in our body are called chakras and the chakra specific to the area I explained above is the root, which is our grounding and rooting energy center. My homework, in this case, would be to practice earthing (stand barefoot on grass first thing in the morning, or get outside in nature and go for a walk).
How does stress influence our fascia?
Stress is the biggest contributor to global body tension and, more specifically, how we manage or absorb that stress. When our body experiences stress, it goes into something called the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for our fight/flight/freeze response. When our body is relaxed and at ease, we can tap into our parasympathetic nervous system, which allows us to fall into meditative and deep relaxation states.
When it comes to fascia and stress, it can manifest in tension in the neck, shoulder, and jaw. In this specific case, if your body responds to stress by holding your breath, shrugging the shoulders up to the ears, and then clenching the jaw, over time, that stress compounds in the fascia and muscle structures so deeply that people come to see me with a knot in the neck, TMJ, or constant headaches. But by implementing self-care routines and practices such as meditation, gua sha, acupuncture, grounding work, reading a book, and breathwork, the body has an opportunity to tap into that parasympathetic nervous system and take an exhale!
How do meridians play into fascia work, and how does this interconnect with the body?
Everything is connected! Meridians are such an important part of our body and are how our body, our organs, muscle tissue, all systems in our body function. Fascia is interwoven throughout the whole body, which means it also covers each of our organs and can affect the different meridian chains and sites in our body. Fascia can wrap, interpenetrate, and support every area in the body, which makes meridian work and fascial work go hand in hand.
What about scar tissue?
Scar tissue is such an interesting concept. It is completely different from fascia but does affect the fascia like a more sticky or adhesive group of tissue. By using different techniques on scar tissue (depending on the area the scar tissue is located) like glide cupping or cupping with the movement of the body, the scar tissue can be broken down and be released. When working on scar tissue, I believe it is critical to look at how or why the scar tissue was created. If someone has experienced an injury and they never got proper imaging, I will refer out to a sports medicine doctor for imaging to ensure there is no muscle or tendon tear. If the scar tissue was the result of surgery or a bad cut and is surface level, there is a lot we can do in treatment.
What is your top wellness advice to those who are preventatively trying to lead a pain-free life?
Love this question!
My top wellness advice tips to lead a pain-free life:
- Hydrate 3-4L mineral-rich water/day (you are only aa hydrated as what you absorb).
- Meditate: I practice Vedic meditation, but any form of slowing down and allowing yourself to unplug and be with your body physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually works. There are amazing apps, walking meditations, and breathing techniques available!
- Do not consume foods that hurt you. If you experience digestive distress, acid reflux, headaches, or lethargy after you eat certain foods, ask yourself why. Take a break from them and implement foods that are not inflammatory to your body
- Move your body to some capacity everyday. Sitting = stagnation and we all know what stagnation can do to the body and fascia!
- Supplement correctly! I take a number of supplements, but my non-negotiables are Magnesium (I use Bi Glycinate), D3, Iron, and Collagen – holi (mane) is incredible for hair, skin, and nails but also tendon and ligament health as well!