Here's the lowdown on that crazy "fascia-blasting" tool you saw on "Keeping Up With The Kardashians"
Last year, I came across a Facebook group about “fascia blasting,” a technique used to decrease the appearance of cellulite with a device called the FasciaBlaster. Hundreds of women shared their experiences with the claw-studded stick, sharing tips and tricks while posting shocking before and after pictures. Not only were they pleased with the aesthetic results, many of the users also claimed that the FasciaBlaster helped with their chronic pain.
Since then, the cellulite-banishing tool has become more popular, garnering over one million likes for creator Ashley Black’s Facebook page and putting her on Amazon’s bestseller list for her book, The Cellulite Myth: It’s Not Fat, It’s Fascia. Fasciablasting has even made its way into the Kardashian-Jenner empire. In a recent episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Khloé pulled out a FasciaBlaster to demonstrate how it gets rid of cellulite on her sister Kourtney. “You rub this on your body like really hard, but you gotta be naked and it breaks down the stuff,” Khloé explained. “You should see me naked in my bed doing this. It looks like a very weird sexual thing.”
So what exactly is fascia?
FasciaBlaster inventor Ashley Black describes fascia to HelloGiggles as not only the body’s connective tissue, but “what holds our organs and muscles in place, it keeps us upright, and it serves as a communication system.” Black was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis in her childhood and suffered from a life-threatening staph infection in her mid-twenties. These experiences inspired her to research human anatomy and medicine, ultimately leading her to fascia. “Fascia is so complex and understudied and we’re still finding out more and more about it every day,” Black explains.
She points out that fascia has been largely ignored by modern science, and only in recent years have groups been giving fascia the attention it deserves.
In 2007, the first-ever Fascia Research Congress took place in Boston, kicking off a series of global conferences dedicated to the new field. “Very few textbooks and even colleges barely brush on the subject, if at all, and in turn, fascia has been largely ignored,” Black says. “Pioneers in the field have done amazing work, but it has never gotten out to the public in this way, until now.”
Black was helping pro athletes deal with injuries when she invented the FasciaBlaster — her clients needed a way to treat their pain at home in between sessions, and this tool was the key. It was discovered as more than a pain buster purely by accident when a client’s girlfriend used it on her cellulite.
Black says the purpose of the FasciaBlaster’s claw-like design allows it to “rake through the fascia, breaking up the adhesions, and allowing the fascia to revert to its natural state, which is pliable and flexible.” Black’s website offers tutorials and videos that show how to properly use the tool: You heat your skin, either in a sauna or hot shower, apply oil, and scrub the FasciaBlaster up and down and side to side all over your body. Aside from the regular-sized, $89 FasciaBlaster, Black offers a mini version, as well as a FaceBlaster for more delicate areas like the face, hands, and neck.
When asked about the most remarkable results she’s seen from people using her FasciaBlaster, Black says:
With the claims of healing and superficial benefits, medical experts have both praise and concern for the FasciaBlaster.
Ginevra Liptan, M.D. founder and medical director of The Frida Center for Fibromyalgia, says research shows different types of techniques used to break up scar tissue and knots in fascia around muscle has been successful in reducing pain. “Rubbing muscles and tendons with a rigid tool like the FasciaBlaster, if used correctly, can have this same effect.” She says, however, there is danger in using this type of tool wrong:
“To give a frame of reference, physical therapists using rigid metal tools to treat the muscles have to undergo many hours of additional training to be certified in what is called the Graston Technique, to ensure they can do it correctly,” Dr. Liptan says.
While Dr. Liptan applauds Black for introducing fascia to the mainstream, she’s concerned that the tool might be so rigid that patients can easily hurt themselves. In fact, some former users of the Fasciablaster have complained about “severe bruising, weight gain, sagging skin, increased cellulite, nausea, and menstruation changes,” according to a BuzzfeedNews article from July. The company told BuzzfeedNews that the complaints came from a “small fringe group” of social media “haters” that represented just .017% of its total audience. Black has also described intense bruising as part of the process, and that some people may have what she describes as a “worse before better” experience.
For those who are curious about using the FasciaBlaster to reduce pain there are other options, says Dr. Liptan. “There are more effective and gentle methods to get the same or more benefit, and my favorite is a specific form of manual therapy called myofascial release,” she says. “This technique involves a combination of sustained manual traction and prolonged gentle stretching to break up the scar tissue and adhesions in the fascia. Erika Bloom, who owns the N.Y. and L.A.-based Erika Bloom Pilates studios, says fascial imbalances can be improved with exercise methods like Pilates, rolling, and sustained stretching. “An expert will manipulate the fascia so specifically to release where you are short and give tone where you are unstable,” Bloom explains. “This creates balance and allows for ideal biomechanics leaving you healthy, graceful, and injury free.”