Myofascial Release Therapy
How can myofascial release therapy nourish your soul?
Myofascial release therapy is a hands-on modality often integrated with massage treatment, intended to relieve pressure and tension in myofascial tissue. The fascia is a network of thin connective tissue distributed throughout the body; myofascial membranes are the ones that enclose muscle tissue. After muscle overuse, trauma, disease or other factors, it is believed that some areas of the fascia may contract, causing pain, restricted movement and poor circulation.
The practice of myofascial release is usually taught as continuing professional education, building on massage qualifications. By completing a short course, practitioners who are already trained in fields such as massage, anatomy or physiology may obtain certification in myofascial release therapy. Myofascial release and myotherapy are terms which may seem similar; they both involve the root ‘myo’, meaning ‘muscle’, derived from ancient Greek. The difference is that myofascial release is focused more on the fascia, while myotherapy targets the muscle tissue within, and is based on conventional Western understanding of the musculoskeletal system.
The aim of myofascial release is to reduce muscular tension within the fascia, improving the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluid, and trigger a ‘stretch reflex’, allowing tight muscle groups to relax. The treatment involves a practitioner feeling for areas of tension and rigidity within the myofascial system, then massaging the area to gradually release pressure, increasing suppleness and flexibility.
Because the fascia comprises such a complex network within the body, myofascial massage in one area may relieve pain in a different body part. The way myofascial release works is not fully understood, although ongoing research suggests the mechanism of action may be related to the high concentration of sensory nerves within the fascia.
Benefits of myofascial release therapy
The results of a randomised controlled trial suggest myofascial release techniques may be an effective complementary treatment to improve function and reduce the severity of pain in people suffering from fibromyalgia. It is reported that myofascial release may be an effective way of treating myofascial pain syndrome, a condition with similarities to fibromyalgia, but which tends to produce more localised symptoms.
There is evidence to suggest myofascial release therapy may be a “promising treatment” for restricted mobility and chronic pain following surgery for breast cancer, but more research is recommended. It is reported that myofascial release, in combination with kinesiotherapy, may improve circulatory function in post-menopausal women.
Research suggests both direct and indirect methods of myofascial may help relieve chronic tension-type headache, and it is reported that myofascial release may be a practical way of managing lateral epicondylitis (‘tennis elbow’). There is also evidence to suggest myofascial release therapy may reduce “pain-related disability” and depression, as well as improve quality of sleep, in elderly patients suffering from chronic lower-back pain.
Myofascial release therapy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Back pain
- Breast cancer
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- Circulation and cardiovascular conditions
- Fatigue, burnout and exhaustion
- Foot, heel and ankle issues
- Headaches and migraines
- Hips and pelvis
- Inflammation and swelling
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Menopause and hot flushes
- Mobility and movement
- Neck pain
- Pain relief
- Plantar fasciitis
- Posture and spine issues
- Scars, burns and wound healing
- Shoulder and elbow issues
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)
- Tennis elbow and repetitive strain injury (RSI)
What to expect from a myofascial release therapy session
Your first myofascial release session is likely to take up to 90 minutes, and will usually start with your practitioner asking you about your medical history. Any injuries, trauma or surgery you might have had in the past may have an effect on the network of fascia in your body, and may give your practitioner a clue about problem areas they need to work on.
You will usually be invited to lie on a massage table for the treatment. Your myofascial release practitionermassage therapist will not ask you to remove any more clothing than you are comfortable with, and will provide you with a towel so that you don’t feel exposed. Your practitioner will use gentle touch to locate areas of myofascial tension and rigidity, and then stretch and massage those areas using their hands.
Releasing the tension in each area may take several minutes, and to ensure they can accurately feel the changes in your fascia, your practitioner will not normally use massage oil. Depending on the style of myofascial release your practitioner uses, they might apply very gentle pressure, or use firmer, deeper manipulation techniques.
As with any exercise or wellness program, please consult your medical professional before commencing myofascial release therapy. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your myofascial release therapist, who will be happy to address these and personalise the session to suit your individual requirements.