Myofascial release therapy is often confused with massage therapy because both involve hands-on manipulation of the soft tissue. While massage focuses primarily on muscles, myofascial release focuses primarily on the fascia.
Fascia is the connective tissue that runs from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet, almost like a three-dimensional spider web with gel between the strand of web. Fascia strengthens, supports and cushions the human body.
There are three layers of fascia. Superficial fascia is the top layer that lies below the skin and allows muscles to move the skin. Nerves run through this layer. Deep fascia surrounds muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels, while the visceral or parietal fascia holds organs in place within their cavities.
Normally, the fascia is elastic, fluid and flexible. But if one part of the fascia is pulled, injured, overused, underused, dehydrated or inflamed, it can cause a painful ripple effect that extends to other parts of the body. That’s why, for example, the source of the pain in your knee could be a problem in your lower back. And that’s another reason why it’s so important to get to the root cause of what’s bothering you.
Tightness, hardness or restrictions in the fascia slow down blood flow and cause myofascial pain, which can range from mild discomfort and tenderness to excruciating pain. This leads to the creation of myofascial adhesions, or scar tissue.
As more blood flow is restricted, more muscles tighten, more adhesions develop, and more pain follows. In addition to pain, many people experience poor sleep, fatigue and stiffness. This condition typically doesn’t show up in diagnostic imaging such as CT scans and x-rays.
Myofascial release is a hands-on therapy in which a highly trained therapist uses specific protocols to pinpoint the areas of the fascia that are tight or restricted. The therapist will look for myofascial trigger points, or knots. These are the myofascial adhesions and the source of the pain. The therapist will also evaluate any loss of motion or symmetry. Based on this evaluation, the therapist will recommend a personalized treatment plan.
Myofascial release therapy involves the use of gentle, sustained pressure and/or stretching in the restricted area, allowing the fascia to release and return to its normal elastic, flexible self. The patient’s progress is measured by improvements in motion and function, as well as pain relief. Treatment can take weeks or months depending on the individual and the severity of the condition.
Myofascial release therapy can be used to treat dozens of chronic and acute conditions, including but not limited to:
Of course, myofascial release therapy is part of a comprehensive treatment program. Nutrition and exercise (too much, incorrect or lack of exercise) have a direct impact on the formation of myofascial adhesions. We go over proper body mechanics, movement and posture, and how to safely improve strength and flexibility. We talk about the level of stress in your life. All three components of the Triad of Health – the physical, nutritional and psychological – must be in balance for any treatment program to work.
People rarely come to Natural Healthcare Center and say, “I want myofascial release therapy.” But it’s one more tool we have at our disposal for addressing the source of your pain or discomfort so you can feel better, function better and live longer.