Myofascial release is an approach that focuses on the release of the body’s most flexible yet sturdy tissue: the fascia. This dense connective tissue is uninterrupted. Like a sweater, it surrounds each and every muscle, organ, bone, artery and vein in the body, including the brain and spinal cord. Fascia is essential for the proper function of muscles and other moving parts, such as joints and tendons. Muscles and fascia work together to support the body and facilitate movement. Myofascial release techniques relieve tension and pain by releasing and lengthening both muscles and fascia.
Poor posture, chronic inflammation, overuse and trauma, such as accidents or surgery can cause the fascia to become inflexible, restricting natural movement. Prolonged tension from stress or emotional upset can also contribute to fascial restrictions. Tight, inflexible fascia can pull on muscles and other structures, causing tension, pain and limited mobility. Its continuity means that the effect of any restriction due to trauma, scarring or inflammation can cause imbalances in the body, which in turn cause an imbalance to posture and may cause pain. This imbalance can compromise the body’s ability to function to its full potential. Myofascial release helps release and lengthens these restrictions to help get back to a pain-free lifestyle.
Every day countless people are affected by chronic pain and the physical limitations it causes. Myofascial release is an advanced hands-on bodywork technique that can help. More and more people are finding this unique therapy can reduce their pain, improve posture and increase comfortable movement.
ADDRESSING PAIN AT ITS SOURCE
When fascia cannot move freely, it can cause discomfort in seemingly unrelated areas. For example, restrictions in the shoulder can actually pull on and cause pain in the wrist. Myofascial release is remarkably effective because it addresses a whole region, not just one area in isolation. For example, to address pain in the wrist and hand, a therapist may work from the neck to the tips of the fingers.
Myofascial release may offer relief not only from temporary tightness, but from long-held tension as well. Without the pull of tight fascia, muscles can stay lengthened and in balance with each other. As a result, increased comfort and mobility are often long-lasting.
EFFECTIVE FOR MANY CONDITIONS
Myofascial release promotes flexibility, balance and relaxation. The technique is especially effective for relieving stiff neck, chronic headaches, plantar fasciitis and low back or shoulder pain. It is also used to reduce the discomforts of fibromyalgia, arthritis and temporomandibular joint syndrome. In addition, myofascial release can help repair old injuries by increasing the pliability of scar tissue in muscles and tendons.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING AND AFTER TREATMENT
A myofascial release session begins with a discussion of the patient’s injury, pain or limitation, and an assessment of their range of motion and posture. Then, the therapist will begin working with the outermost layer of tissue and, like uncovering the layers of an onion, gradually move deeper. As the patient relaxes, the therapist will apply long, smooth, deliberate strokes and extended stretches to the tissues.
Releasing fascia requires a sensitive and slow approach. The first session may be gentle and subtle, but changes will likely be noticed over the following days, such as reduced tension and increased ease of movement. Over time, as outer layers become more pliable, a myofascial release therapist will be able to work more and more deeply.
Some people notice soreness afterward, especially with the first treatment. This is similar to the temporary soreness that can result from exercise. The therapist may have advice for easing soreness, such as drinking plenty of water.
THE EMOTIONAL COMPONENT
When there has been physical or long-held stress and tension, an emotional element can be involved. If this is the case, releasing tension can sometimes bring up feelings. Myofascial release therapists understand this and may be able to recommend helpful resources.
THE CLIENT’S ROLE
A myofascial release therapist may ask a client to play an active role in their sessions. For example, the therapist might ask the client to breathe deeply as a stroke is applied or to change position or stretch to help the tissues lengthen and relax.
Communicating during a myofascial release session is vital. The therapist needs to know if the pressure they are using or anything else is uncomfortable to the patient. They also need to be advised by the patient of any current medical conditions or medications.
The therapist may suggest specific exercises, stretches or relaxation techniques for patients to do regularly at home. This can help keep muscles flexible, lengthened and relaxed between visits.
Multiple sessions often increase the effectiveness of myofascial release, but the number and frequency of sessions will depend on the patient’s condition.
A RETURN TO PAIN-FREE MOVEMENT
Although fascia is not commonly talked about, it is often a major factor in injuries and chronic pain. Myofascial release is a highly effective technique that relieves tightness in both muscles and fascia. It can powerfully support good health and vitality with long-lasting pain relief and improved ease of movement.