What Is It Myofascial Release
‘Myofascial’ comes from ‘myo’ (meaning muscle) and ‘fascia’ (band). Myofascial Release is a hands-on gentle massage therapy, applying sustained pressure into the fascia, which is the connective tissue providing support and protection for most structures in the body.
Fascial tissue wraps the muscles, bone, nerves and organs of the body and runs in an uninterrupted web from the top of the head to the tips of the toes. It is therefore essential to keep the fascia healthy and stretched; when the fascia becomes damaged or bound it can cause dysfunction, causing adhesions, inflammation or scar tissue. And, because it runs throughout our bodies, it can cause referred pain in other areas. Adhesions, can also limit the range of motion within a joint or cause muscle pain.
Myofascial Release Technique can help to alleviate pain and restore mobility and greater flexibility. Therapists are trained to feel and stretch very slowly into the fascial network. The massage is slow and when collagen, the glue-like texture within the fascia is found to be dense or thick there is fascial restriction. Myofascial Release Technique is not just massaging muscles, tendons or ligaments; the fascia must not be forced, but gently coaxed.
The therapist will provide a gentle and sustained, pressure for specific period of time - a minimum of 90 – 120 seconds - which permits fascia to naturally elongate and, it is intended, return to normal resting length which will restore the healthy status quo, giving greater flexibility, mobility and eliminating pain.
The technique of Mysofascial Release is used to treat many conditions, including:
- Back Pain
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Emotional Trauma
- Frozen Shoulder
- Tennis Elbow
- Chronic Pain
- Neck Pain
- Myofascial Syndrome
- TMJ Syndrome – (clicking jaw)
- Plantar fasciitis
What To Expect
Because you are unique and your tissues are quite individual and different from anyone else, all therapy sessions are one-to-one and your therapist will use different Release techniques and movements on you to elongate, stretch and free the fascia. All techniques are hands-on and performed directly on the skin. No creams or oils are used as this would not allow the therapist to detect any restriction of fascia; having assessed your personal condition, the therapist is able to assess the precise amount of pressure and traction in order to effectively release fascia. It will also be necessary to remove your clothes.
It is likely that you will be asked to move while the treatment takes place: possibly lie on the massage table, sit or even stand, depending on what your therapist needs to do in order to help gain release of the fascia and bring the body back into alignment and balance. If you are asked to move, it is so that you can provide resistance to the action of the therapist, and so as to increase the effect of the fascial stretching.
The gentle but firm stretching used in Myofascial Release Technique enhances a breakdown of restrictive tissue, and the softening and lengthening process which takes place helps to realign and restore balance to the body relieving pain and improving blood circulation. While undergoing treatment you may experience a gentle tug on the skin due to the stretching or an itching or tingling sensation. Regard this is a good sign, meaning more blood is getting into that particular area of the body to assist the healing process. The therapist may recommend some release work that you can carry out yourself when you get home.
To give you some idea of the process, this is how Australian expert in Myofascial Release Technique, Michael Stanborough, who has taught its theory and practice in institutes around the world, describes the method to his students:
- Land on the surface of the body with the appropriate 'tool' (knuckles, or forearm etc).
- Sink into the soft tissue.
- Contact the first barrier/restricted layer.
- Put in a 'line of tension'.
- Engage the fascia by taking up the slack in the tissue.
- Finally, move or drag the fascia across the surface while staying in touch with the underlying layers.
- Exit gracefully.
Stanborough makes it sounds like a moon-landing.
Benefits and Effects
Myofascial Release Technique has been found to be particularly effective for back pain and chronic pain, fibromyalgia, frozen shoulder, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches and whiplash injuries.
As the fascia is released, so the body can self-correct, eliminate pain and restore the best possible optimum performance of movement. There appear to be many benefits associated with Mysofascial Release Technique:
Myofascial Release can decreases Pain: it is claimed that this technique can release the body's natural painkillers, endorphins, by allowing the blood, lymph and nerve receptors to work efficiently so pain is relieved. Some find that this can reduce or remove the need for prescription analgesics.
It helps to strengthen the immune system. When fascia is restricted, the lymphatic flow is slowed down, which affects the immune system (the body’s first line of defence against infection and primary aid to healing).
Myofascial Release increases the circulatory flow of lymph and therefore hastens healing of injuries or infections. Tingling, pins and needles or numbness in the arms or legs generally indicate Nerve pain.
Myofascial Release Technique can work to relieve pressure which may be caused by fascial adhesions pressing on the nerves. Keeping a healthy circulatory system reduces stress on the heart and can prevent painful cramps, brings nutrients to the cells and takes away the waste; Myofascial Release Technique increases circulation and assists this process.
Along with other alternative therapies MFR promotes the philosophy that the mind and body must work together to be successful and maintain one’s health, that they are one and the same. The body remembers postural positions, actions and emotions without thought having to be engaged.
One of the most helpful images describing the treatment is the following from the website of the technique’s professional organization Myofascial Release UK and Ireland:
“Fascia can be described like a 3D sweater, when the fascial network is traumatised it is pulled and twisted out of alignment rather like a pull in the sweater. Therefore, if the fascia has tightened creating bands of tension three dimensionally throughout the body resulting in symptoms distant to the injury then all the appropriate localised treatments will produce limited or temporary results.”
So, Myofascial Release treatment helps to put your body-sweater back into shape.