Myofascial Release

Written by Barbara Silbey for the Brattleboro Reformer January 09, 2015.

Myofascial release is a safe and effective manual therapy technique used by physical therapists to treat patients with a variety of soft tissue disorders. Myofascial release has been used to successfully treat muscle and joint pain, neck and back pain, carpal tunnel and plantar fasciitis, and chronic pain conditions such as headaches, fibromyalgia and Lyme disease.

Myofascial release focuses on the pain and restrictions that are believed to arise from the myofascial tissues. Myofascial tissues include the muscles (myo) and the fascia. Fascia is the strong fibrous connective tissue that wraps, connects and supports all of the muscles and organs in the body. Fascia, unlike muscle that has a clear origin and insertion, is a continuous network of fibers that runs throughout the entire body.

When muscle fibers are injured or people experience pain the fascia that surrounds the area becomes shortened and tight. This uneven stress can be transferred through the fascia and can cause additional pain and restrictions in other parts of the body. Restrictions in the fascia cause pain or tenderness referred to as myofascial "trigger points." A physical therapist trained in myofascial release will be able to find these "trigger points" just by feel. Often, patients are unable to pinpoint the areas of tenderness or they have grown so accustomed to them they are not aware of them until the physical therapist finds them. The size and sensitivity of the "trigger points" will decrease with myofascial treatment.

Myofascial release involves applying gentle sustained pressure to the myofascial tissue to stretch and elongate the fascia. The physical therapist finds the area of restriction, or the myofascial trigger point, and then applies pressure. The pressure is guided by feedback the therapist feels from the patient's body. This feedback tells the therapist how much force to use and how long to apply pressure. When the tissue releases the therapist will move on to the next area to be released.

Myofascial release has several positive effects including decreased muscle tension and tightness, decreased pain, and improved blood and lymphatic circulation. In addition, myofascial release can increase mobility of the surrounding joints and improve postural muscle balance.

Myofascial release is a whole body treatment method that recognizes that pain and restrictions in one part of the body can affect the entire body. Restrictions can cause postural imbalances throughout the body. Myofascial release re-educates the central nervous system in order to maintain positive changes to the fascial system.

If you have pain or postural imbalances that have not responded to other forms of treatment, or if you would like to experience myofascial release therapy consult a physical therapist who has training in this valuable technique.

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