ARTICLES

Unraveling The Mysteries Of Unwinding

1. What is unwinding?
The term “unwind” is generally used with a meaning to relax, become less tense, or take an ease. “Unwind your body” is a common phrase used to promote relaxation bodywork.
But Fascial or Myofascial Unwinding is a type of bodywork that has a goal to “release” fascial restriction by encouraging the body or parts of
the body to move to areas of ease. Unwinding usually involves a therapist that induced the process to a client, and this is followed by spontaneous reaction: bending, rotating, and twisting of the parts of the body in a rhythmic pattern.
Unwinding is a gentle and non-invasive treatment which responds to body’s inner potential, not forcing the tissue in some directions. The goal is to facilitate the body’s own physical release potential. It is a bodywork that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. This article will take a look at some aspects of physical unwinding, and also presents some theories on why and how it occurs.
This technique is usually offered in classes and workshops in myofascial release (the John Barnes MFR). Unwinding can be thought as an expression of inner movement. Sometimes just a
gentle touch with a clear intention of restoring balance and being aware of client’s body can stimulate unwinding. Unwinding can happen automatically when a therapist is working on a client’s soft tissues. The client generally moves in response to therapist’s touch and inner feel- ing. The movement can be large or small, involving some parts of the body or the whole body. It can happen when a client feels
safe and secure in the hand of the therapist and this allows the expression of movements. In some cases, emotional release can occur during unwinding, therefore it is important to distinguish between pure physical unwinding and emotional release. Here we only discuss physical un- winding which has a pro- found therapeutic benefit in releasing chronic musculoskeletal pain.
In craniosacral therapy there’s a technique called somato-emotional release which used fascia unwinding to access client’s emotion; it mostly deals with the physical manifestations of emotional trauma with the aim to release residual negative energies from past traumatic experiences. Again, here we only deal with physical unwinding.

The term “unwinding” was coined by Dr. Viola Frymann in 1963. The technique was mainly developed by Dr. Frymann, who was a student of Dr. Sutherland. The physical unwinding component of Somato emotional Release is based on Dr. Frymann’s work. However, unwinding was never intended nor used by her to provoke emotional release.
According to Dr. Frymann the principle of unwinding is to place the body in the position that permit the fascia to go through whatever motions are necessary to eliminate the forces causing the injury.
The phenomenon of unwinding where parts of the body move spontaneously and involuntarily is fascinating and mystical. Robert Ward recognized that these seemingly random movements reflect a variety of interacting electromechanical events affecting central, peripheral, autonomic, and even physiologic functions. He added that “amid much speculation, satisfactory
scientific descriptions for the events are lacking.”

2. How to unwind?
To introduce an unwinding therapy, the therapist must be centered and grounded, acting as a catalyst or facilitator, with a compassionate attitude, and be aware of client’s inherent wisdom. The techniques for unwinding can be found in craniosacral therapy books such as by Upledger and Vredevoogd (1983) and Milne (1998). In unwinding, the therapist act as a catalyst, placing the client’s body or body parts in certain configurations, and let it “unwind”. The technique begins quite simply from the therapist’s touch and the client takes over quickly.
Therapist initially induces the motion in the body, usually by lifting and holding certain part of the body so that it removes the influence of gravity. This technique is often used when working with the limbs. According to Kern, when the gravity effect has been removed, any
strain pattern of the tissues is holding may become more easily clarified. Alternatively the therapist can add compression to main joints in the area, or holding part of a body in certain relaxed position.
The unwinding process can be carried out on any parts of the body such as arm, leg, neck or even jaw. It can also be carried out for the whole body. The following are some examples:
Arm and shoulder unwinding, client is supine, and lifting an arm supporting it under the therapist’s elbow and wrist, a light compression towards the shoulder joint can be added. After a while, the therapist will sense movements.

In practice, the unwinding patterns are unpredictable. Some will only show subtle motion, while others can move vigorously through space. Some sensitive therapists can induce, and expect unwinding from their patients, while others never experienced it.
If the client suddenly starts to unwind, without your intention, you could
just to support the client, and stay out of the way. When the body starts unwinding rigorously, it can take over the session. Clients usually unwind when they feel secured and supported. It is important not trying to analyze and figuring out and judging what is happening. Remember, it is natural process, and let it flows. Taking a seminar on unwinding would certainly be helpful.

3. Benefits
Unwinding techniques can be used in conjunction with other modalities is to release pain or movement restriction of clients (not for releasing emotional problems). Barnes (2000) suggested that myofascial release and unwinding are the best thing for anyone with acute injuries, “spasms will lessen, pain will diminish and range of motion will return”. The process is always gentle, always following the body’s own demands and is usually experienced as a very relaxing, soothing, and pleasant experience. Even in painful neck or frozen shoulder conditions, the gentle process of unwinding can be carried out, to encourage and discover pain-free movement to
McCarthy and colleagues (2007) documented the use of unwinding in the treatment of a patient with chronic neck pain. They evaluated the outcome of short term pain and disability in a patient with chronic neck and shoulder girdle pain treated with just unwinding. Treatment shows a reduction in pain intensity and perceived disability.

4. Tissue memory
The metaphors used to explain fascial unwinding include: unwinding tangled telephone wires or twisted rubber bands. Most common explanation is that our tissues hold memory of trauma, and unwinding will allow the client’s body to move to self correction. Fascia may become short and tight due to trauma, poor posture, and physical stress. Upledger and Vredevoogd (1983) described it as follows:
“When an injuring force occurs, the tissue which receives the force is changes. Perhaps it retains the energy of the impact. The human body the either dissipates that energy and returns to normal; or the body somehow localizes the impact energy and walls it off.” Unwinding attempts to free these stored energy. (Upledger, 1987)
There are also various theories regarding memory for traumatic
the area and restore mobility.
Barret Dorko (2003) characterized it with four attributes: effortless, warmth, muscular softening, and surprise. The muscular softening is attributed to the full expression of muscles, and the warmth to an increase of blood flow. The effortless and surprising qualities of this motion are both characteristic of instinctive and unconsciously motivated movement.

The first is called state-dependent memory which comes from observation that memory in one state of consciousness cannot be recalled until the person returns to the same state. Another idea is suggested by Sigmund Freud who proposed that unwanted memories can be excluded from awareness, a process called repression. Recent studies show that a biological mechanism exists in the human brain to block unwanted memories.

5. Neurobiological fascia theory
Robert Schleip in a fascinating series of paper (2003a, 2003b) presented a comprehensive review on the neurobiology of fascia and provide a theory on how myofascial release works. Fascia and the autonomic nervous system appear to be intimately connected. Fascia is densely innervated by mechanoreceptors which are responsive to manual pressure. Myofascial manipulation involves a stimulation of intrafascial mechanoreceptors which are then processed by the central nervous system and autonomic nervous system. The response of the central nervous system changes the tonus of some related striated muscle fibers. The autonomic nervous system response includes an altered global muscle tonus, a change in local vasodilatation and tissue viscosity, and a low-
client supine and head off the table, neck supported and under extension). These techniques are also known clinically can trigger unwinding of the neck. Anxiety levels significantly decreased after the application of the three techniques. Heart rate and systolic blood pressure were modulated during the course of the myofascial techniques, and the effects were observed up to 20 minutes after the therapy.

6. Summary
Unwinding is a gentle form of therapy which can be incorporated in other form of bodywork. It is a non-invasive treatment which responds to the body’s inner demands to release, never imposing any stress on the tis- sues. It is generally painless and brings about a much appreciated sense of relief, ease, and relaxation.


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