**With permission from fellow MFR Therapist, Richard Harty, PT**
MYOFASCIAL RELEASE What is it? How does it work?
Myofascial Release is generally an extremely mild and gentle form of stretching that has profound effect upon the body tissues. Because of its gentleness, many individuals wonder how it could possibly work. To help you understand, we are providing you with this article.
Fascia (also called connective tissue) is a tissue system of the body to which relatively little attention has been given in the past. Fascia is composed of two types of fibers: A) Collagenous fibers, which are very tough and have little stretchability B) Elastic fibers, which are stretchable. From the functional point of view, the body fascia may be regarded as a continuous laminated sheet of connective tissue that extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. It surrounds and invades every other tissue and organ of the body, including nerves, vessels muscle and bone. It has been estimated that fascia has a tensile strength of as much as 2000 pounds per square inch.
When Fascia is Injured
Myofascial restrictions do not show up on any of the standard tests (x-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s etc) so these myofascial restrictions have been ignored or misdiagnosed. Because fascia permeates all regions of the body and is all interconnected, when scars harden in one area (following injury, inflammation, disease, surgery, etc.) it can put tension on adjacent pain-sensitive structures as well as on structures in far-away areas. Some patients have bizarre pain symptoms that appear to be unrelated to the original or primary complaint. These bizarre symptoms can now often be understood in relationship to our understanding of the fascial system.
Anatomy of Fascia
The majority of the fascia of the body is oriented vertically. There are, however, four major planes of fascia in the body that are oriented in more of a crosswise (or transverse) plane. These four transverse planes are extremely dense. They are called the pelvic floor, respiratory diaphragm, thoracic inlet and cranial base. Frequently, all four of these transverse planes will become restricted when fascial adhesions occur in just about any part of the body. This is because this fascia of the body is all interconnected, and a restriction in one region can theoretically put a “drag” on the fascia in any other direction, like the yarn in a sweater. If the sweater is pulled down in the front, it tightens around the neck, but the neck is not the source of the problem; so with the fascial system, but in a three dimensional sense.
Treating Fascial Restrictions
The point of all the above information is to help you understand that during myofascial release treatments, you may be treated in areas that you may not think are related to your condition. The trained therapist has a thorough understanding of the fascial system and will “release” the fascia in areas that he/she knows have a strong “drag” on your area of injury. This is, therefore, a whole body approach to treatment.
Muscle provides the greatest bulk of our body’s soft tissue. Because all muscle is enveloped by and ingrained with fascia, myofascial release is the term that has been given to the techniques that are used to relieve soft tissue from the abnormal grip of tight fascia (“myo” means “Muscle”).
The type of myofascial release technique given by the therapist will depend upon where in your body the therapist finds the fascia restricted.
The therapist needs to be use “skin to skin” contact to provide the friction interface needed to release the fascia effectively. Therefore, the patient should be “comfortably undressed”, wearing, for example a two piece bathing suit, bra or gym shorts and sports bra / tank top.
Myofascial Release treatment sessions are often extremely relaxing. There may or may not be conversation with the therapist; however the therapist encourages the patient to be present and aware of sensations within their body. Feedback from the patient to the therapist regarding what they are feeling helps the therapist to be as effective as possible.
Sometimes, but not always, you may experience a temporary increase in your pain or symptoms after a treatment session. There is no cause for alarm, but certainly notify the therapist. This period of the “healing crisis” is then followed by remarkable improvement. Often remarkable improvement is noted immediately during or after a treatment. Sometimes new pains in new areas will be experienced. There is sometimes a feeling of light-headedness or nausea. Sometimes a patient experiences a temporary emotion change. All of these are normal reactions of the body to the profound, but positive, changes that have occurred by releasing the fascial restrictions. Any and all of these reactions should be communicated with the therapist.
It is felt that release of tight tissue is accompanied by release of trapped metabolic waste products in the surrounding tissue and bloodstream. We highly recommend that you “flush your system” by drinking a lot of fluids during the course of your treatments, so that reactions like nausea and light-headedness will remain minimal or nil.
If you have any questions concerning myofascial release, please discuss them with your therapist.