I recently had the great pleasure of having a fascia nerd chat with the founder of the MELT Method, Sue Hitzmann. Sue is incredibly well informed and has created a thoughtful and remarkably useful system out of studying the emerging research on fascia, and her dedication to helping people out of pain. You can read the FFF review of it here.
We got into a lot of fascinating topics including how to slow the aging process, what the root of chronic pain actually is, and how you can't exercise your way to a strong "core". There is so much more! Say glycosaminoglycans 5 times fast! (I bet Sue can... ) Anyway, on the the interview. Also check out the time log below if you're hoping to skim it or just to see some of the many other things we chatted about:
:35 I explain my erroneous view that I thought Sue was “the foam roller lady” and how MELT is in fact a much different thing.
2:53 Sue talks about the common misconceptions of what fascia is as a system.
3:38 How can a fluid system be a stability system? How does fluid make something stable?
4:58 Sue talks research on fascia and dehydration. Compression (as in sitting for long periods of time) and repetitive motions create strain that makes it harder to keep your body stable and increases stress and strain in the whole system.
5:41 The dehydration issue is not just about drinking more water. If you’re a frequent urinator, you may have poor cellular absorption.
6:39 Sue talks about the importance of looking at fascia on the micro level of nutrient absorption, cellular stability, and neurological information going through your body, rather than just the macro level of posture and performance and muscles.
7:22 Q: What’s special about MELT that you can access it on that micro level and not just the macro level?
8:00 You can adapt connective tissue very quickly in a light touch way. Monumental global changes can be made in people’s bodies with that light touch.
9:03 Sue talks about the shift in her own private practice after years of more strong touch practices, as she learned about the properties of the cells of connective tissue.
10:38 The trouble with actual foam rollers. Why you don’t want to actually “iron yourself like a shirt” and why you can’t “pop a bubble of pain”. When you have connective tissue dehydration it is going to increase the sensitivity of your nerve endings.
12:55 How MELT can help such a broad spectrum of people- from someone who is 90, to someone with chronic pain, to a performance athlete, or children who are managing ADHD, or even stress issues.
13:31 Q: How does the aging process (and cellulite too!) get impacted by MELT?
14:55 The dirty little secret is that 85% of fitness people are in pain.
17:20 We take for granted that we can pull on our skin and it goes back to where it was. What allows that to happen is the deeper layers of connective tissue that provide the support for every aspect of your body, which includes our skin staying taught. It’s the flexible scaffolding, and it is completely continuous. From skin to bones you can follow one piece of collagen and see it pierce through every structure down to the bone.
18:40 Microvacuoles work and adapt to our movements but only when hydrated. So when you sit for long periods of time, you are pooling the connective tissue in a specific way.
20:28 Fibroblasts are reactive cells. When you compress them for short periods of time and then let it go (as with MELT), it fills the system back up and brings fluid back to those microvacuoles. It is a restorative system, and it doesn’t take a lot of compression, time, or effort.
21:39 Connective tissue dehydration is the cause of pain.
23:00 What is the NeuroCore? The word “core” is really trendy and therefore misunderstood these days.
23:36 Instead of just strengthening all your core muscles, you can be supported. What actually keeps you stable is the neuro-fascial system. The connective tissue is the environment that your sensory nerve endings live in, so if the environment is not stable, your nervous system is going to have to work harder and harder to relay this information to the brain to get an adequate response.
25:59 If you ask someone in fitness, “What is the core?” they’re going to define it as a muscle system that stabilizes the spine, but they can’t answer the question, “how does it work” beyond defining the muscularity of it. We’re trying to define a “core” in the musculoskeletal model, but it’s a dual neuro-fascial stabilizing system that works involuntarily, i.e. you can’t strengthen it via exercise.
27:40 Sue describes how she and Gil Hedley of Integral Anatomy dissected a cadaver layer by layer to find the NeuroCore, and demos what they found.
29:55 Sue weighs in on the debate about if the psoas muscle is actually a hip flexor. It’s actually the communicator between your head and feet. It’s where in embryology we see the cells divide to create the compartments of the human body.
30:40 The “core” is not the muscles. That is the least important element of how the system stays responsive, flexible, and adaptable. Many of us we are so dehydrated in the connective tissue that we cannot hold stable. We become less and less efficient. and our bodies can’t compensate anymore, then we get muscle imbalance, joint pain, etc. But these are symptoms of the NeuroCore not functioning.
34:10 How if you do the 10 min rebalance sequence to access the NeuroCore before doing core exercises, you would actually strengthen your body more in a much more efficient way and would get more benefit from any exercise.
36:40 Your brain doesn’t see muscle. As far as your brain is concerned you have one muscle with 700 compartments.
37:45 We take for granted that as long as we’re moving, we’re moving efficiently, but the connective tissue is the stability architecture and your nervous system relies on that architecture to send information through the body.
38:50 Sue’s goal for people is to understand that the autonomic nervous system needs our care, and if you go to the environment that it lives in, the connective tissue, you’ll make a bigger change. And it is so simple to do.
40:31 Sue’s recent MELT tour of middle America. The general population assumes that if you’re having a problem, you go see your doctor and get a pill. But with chronic pain, the medication is not helping them.
42:18 There are 100 million people in chronic pain, so there is some piece of education missing. Our pharmaceutical industry is the leader of how people are taken care of, so Sue’s hope is to expose the general population to the fact that we’re out here (bodyworkers and this work in general).
45:20 MELT is giving people the tools of tapping into the connective tissue and the nervous system in order to give them a baseline skill set to use at home. Pain does not need to be a day to day event!