As a Massage Therapist, Myofascial Release is probably the most effective tool that I have available to me. Massage Therapy focuses exclusively on soft tissue and fascia is integrated in every part of the body. This approach to Massage Therapy allows a massage therapist to cause long lasting if not permanent changes with a client’s internal structure.
To come right out and state what Myofascial release is without first explaining what components make up the process would be pointless. Myofascial Release focuses on something called the myofascial complex which is made up of fascia. The terms are important because they are the core concept behind Myofascial Release and some of our very own body’s building blocks.
- The term myofascial complex sounds complicated, but the idea isn’t. Imagine your body cocooned in a web of dense elastic fibers, and this web is what holds you together and provides internal support so that you can hold your shape and not just sag around your bones without any form. This myofascial complex is made up of something called fascia and it covers us from head to toe. It covers Muscles, organs and even nerve fibers and just about anything else you can name.
Fascia is a soft connective tissue that serves many functions. Not only does it offer internal support, stabilization, and shock absorption but it also separates layers of tissue. Fascia is made up of fibers of collagen produced by fibroblasts within the fascia itself and forms itself around muscles and other areas structure.
For example: A layer of fascia forms within the muscle bodies to allow a safe pathway for nerve fibers and keep them out of contact with muscle fibers.
Fascia behaves as if it were elastic, and Myofascial Release is not only the process of stretching fascia, but the process of keeping the tissue under tension for a length of time (around five minutes), allowing the fascia to stretch but return to a length somewhat longer than the starting length
For example: If you were to stretch an elastic band and hold the tension for a couple minutes, when you released the tension the elastic band will have lost some elasticity and returned to its resting state slightly longer than its original length.
The reason the elastic band comes to its resting state longer than it started is that a small percentage of the elastic fibers break down, reducing the overall elasticity. The biggest difference between the elastic band analogy and a real life situation involving fascia is with an elastic band this effect is permanent, in muscle and fascia this is normal process and the same process that induces muscle growth. When your muscles detect small areas of damage from using your muscles strenuously they normally respond by building more muscle mass.
Myofascial Techniques come in two different approaches.
- Active: This approach has the client assist in bodily manipulation during the treatment process.
- Passive: This approach has the client remain passive during the treatment.
I would describe the process of Myofascial Release as applying firm but gentle flat pressure to the treatment area until the first layer of fascia presents resistance. A slow stretch is applied to the fascia, holding the tension for three to five minutes until the layer begins to move. Then the process is repeated until the fluid motion is felt to the deepest layer the treatment allows for.
When I say fluid motion I’m referring to a detectable and reasonable range of motion and ease of stretch in the layers of fascia. This will ultimately allow for an overall greater range of motion and a diminishment or elimination of Myofascial pain syndrome in the areas supported by that portion of the Myofascial complex.
The terms Myofascial Therapy, Indirect Myofascial release, Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy, Structural Integration, Soft Tissue Mobilization, and Connective Tissue Massage are all terms used to describe an approach associated Myofascial release to one degree or another. Unlike the other names for Myofascial Release, Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy implements another concept called Trigger Point Therapy which is probably the closest description of my massage therapy approach.
Having described what Myofascial Release is I would like to list just a few conditions and diagnoses that Myofascial Release offers very effective treatment.
- Pelvic Floor Dysfunction
- TMJ Dysfunction
- Carpal Tunnel Dysfunction
- Sciatic Nerve Pain
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Headaches (chronic or otherwise)
- Back Pain
- Hip Pain
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Vertebral Disk Problems
- Reduction of Scar Tissue