Myofascial Release and The Menstrual Cycle

Jun 21 · 6 min read

As a bodyworker, I’ve always known about myofascial release. I learned the basics of how to affect fascia when I was in massage school. Years later, had many wonderful sessions of Rolfing done where I learned how deep fascia work can run, and I’m not talking about just into your muscles.

(You can read about my Rolfing experience here!)

A few weeks back, my husband, a friend, and I headed to rural southern Minnesota for a music festival. I’d bought the tickets when there was still a blanket of snow covering the frozen tundra outside and was eagerly awaiting the long weekend under the magical oaks of Harmony Park with one of my favorite bands of all time.

The day before we left, a monthly subscription from mother nature arrived. Great...

I brought more than enough to prepare, telling myself a portapotty in the dark wasn’t going to be an ideal situation but I’d handle it like a pro. It certainly wasn’t worth missing out. The subscription had been knocking at my proverbial door for over twenty years and I knew it had come at more inconvenient times in the past (like my wedding day, for example).

The first day out there was supposed to be the worst, but I was mentally prepared, or so I thought.

I realized, a few hours in, that it wasn’t as heavy as it should have been. Actually, it barely seemed to be there at all when it was supposed to last another four days. I’m typically very regular and my period is extremely predictable, so this was peculiar to say the least.

On the first night of music, I felt a bit lethargic. My lower back was tight feeling and it was hard to dance. But there was four days total, and festivals are marathons, not sprints, so I hung out and watched the music and saved my dancing feet for the following nights.

Overnight, the bleeding almost entirely stopped. Oh, how many times when I was young did I wish my period would just go away like this? As a body-aware 33-year-old, the odd symptom bothered me more than anything.

On night two during my favorite band's set (who was headlining 3 nights in a row anyway), I could barely dance. The tension in my lower back had intensified, and my neck now felt kinked as well from sharing a one-person cot with my husband and sleeping in an awkward position while the echoes of festival life continued till sunrise.

I tried to dance, but my proprioception was off. I kept bumping into people around me, something I can usually gracefully avoid dancing in crowds. Dancing exacerbated the lower back pain, so I stuck to keeping my feet still and bouncing with the tunes from the ankles up. The music was still magical, as always, so I did my best to get out of my head and enjoy the moment.

...

Late that night after the music had subsided, my husband and I headed out to “the point,” with our new friend Derrick, a myofascial release therapist we’d met on day one...

This particular festival ground sits on the edge of a big lake, and within the grounds is a tree-covered peninsula that juts off the campgrounds into the water. People wander out there to hang out in the shade under the trees, dip their feet in the lake's cool waters and feel connected with nature in this small, meditative oasis just beyond the edges of vibrant festival life.

Being in a rural area, light pollution was low and the new moon made the stars explode over a dark sky. We walked out to a clearing in the trees to observe the constellations. The moment was nothing short of magical…except for the mind-numbing cramps that accompanied it.

I sometimes get cramps, but never anything this debilitating. My guts felt like they were eating themselves. I stood in the dark with two guys, telling myself “it’s just cramps, I’m not dying,” as my tailbone tucked under and spine rounded forward to caress my aching guts, hoping the awkward posture would relieve the pain even just a little.

We watched the big dipper pour into the little dipper, the great bear Ursa Major frolicking across the Milky Way, all while looking for glimpses of anomalies floating in the speckled darkness to hypothesize about what they may be…

I didn’t want the cramps to ruin the moment, so I grit my teeth and endured it, distracting myself with peaceful waters and the night sky.

...

The next day, Derrick and I agreed to trade bodywork. I’d never had that particular kind of myofascial release done and was curious about the approach.

A little background for you, first.

Derrick Lundberg and I met on day one of this festival when he and his friend stopped at our campsite to introduce themselves. We got into a conversation about Traditional Chinese Medicine and being the wellness-nerd I am, his expertise intrigued me. Not long later, I found out he was a bodyworker currently working at the exact same yoga and healing center where I am completing my RYT-200 training. It was certainly one of those small world moments that seem to be a common occurrence at music festivals.

We set up a cot as a pseudo-massage table under the canopy of the ancient oaks, and he did an intake which involved feeling out where contortions were in my fascial system that was bringing me out of balance. I’d told him about the kinks in my neck from our awkward sleeping positions.

“Do you have lower back stuff going on?” he inquired.

“Only because it’s that time of the month,” I replied. “But not usually. They are worse than usual today.” I thought back to how much pain I was in at the point that I mentally swallowed so I could enjoy the stars.

“Ah ha,” he said, “That makes sense.”

Derrick began the unwinding process at my neck as I lay on my back, gazing at the fluffy midwestern-style clouds and late-spring green leaves. The wind blew that day, rustling the branches above me, and I drifted off to another planet.

Each position was held for 3-5 minutes, and I’d feel myself begin to unwind, first at the head and neck, then around the shoulders (which are always tight because of my work). He got to the ribcage and abdominal area and noticed the direct arterial connection between the left kidney and the reproductive organs seemed to have blood stagnation that was evident in how my fascia felt. Using MFR techniques, he was able to release restrictions in that area, allowing the artery to stretch, reigniting my lost circulation.

I didn’t even need to tell him about my obscurely stopped period for him to feel it within my fascia around my kidneys and uterus.

As he worked that kidney route, I felt a release, and pressure seemed to be lifted both from my lower back and around my midsection.

He worked down to my feet, now dirty and wookie-like from 2 days at a festival, and with each release, I could feel my consciousness floating into a deep meditative state. There was no more separation between me and the treetops and the clouds.

As he finished, I felt high on something. I stood up and my body felt light and limber, the restrictions in the lower back and neck vanished, and breath filled my lungs a little bit easier. What a difference the slow-paced, light-pressured bodywork made, a far cry from the deep-pressured therapeutic work I usually get.

...

Over the course of the next few hours, that subscription from mother nature returned, flushing out what it’d been holding in the last day and a half. Thank goodness I came very prepared.

That night, as my favorite band reclaimed the stage for night two, I danced like I haven’t danced since the pre-pandemic festival days. The music took over my body, its healing energy infiltrating the cells of my fascia and filling me from head to toe. I danced wildly, light on my feet, not running into anybody around me this time. I smiled, I laughed, and an enormous amount of energy flowed through me, through every soul in the crowd, and into the starry sky above and the sacred earth below. I heard some of my favorite songs play back to me for the first time in so many years, and my body, mind, and soul evaporated into pure bliss. This was what being alive is all about.

Our bodies are vessels for divine energy, and it just took a little release of the connective tissue to begin to re-experience that.

I excitedly told Derrick the next day about how good dancing felt the night before, still not sure if I could exactly put the euphoric experience into words. He seemed delighted yet unsurprised. Of course, this technique is magical.

It took only a few days after the festival for me to sign up for the seminars that teach this particular approach. They come through my home state every few years or so, and this happens to be one of those years. I’m not sure if meeting Derrick and this trade happened coincidentally, or if I was somehow being guided to this seminar. It’s not until November and we’re still in the beginning stages of summer as I write this, so I’ve got aways to go before I find out.

I do know one thing for sure though: Fascia work is a game-changer.

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