By Sarah Costa, CMT
One of the many massage techniques used at the HOPE Wellness Institute is called myofascial release. Myofascial release is a form of soft tissue therapy intended to treat dysfunction in the fascia and muscle layers of the body. It relaxes contracted muscles, increases circulation and lymphatic drainage and stimulates the stretch reflex of both muscles and fascia. It can be used as a standalone modality or integrated with other complimentary techniques such as scar tissue and adhesion work, trigger point therapy, and Neuromuscular Massage Therapy. For the most part, it is a very gentle and relaxing treatment that uses very little pressure, yet brings about great changes in the body that can lead to the elimination of discomfort and dysfunction.
Myo-fascial. Myo means muscle, and fascia is a form of connective tissue (soft tissue) in the body that provides support and protection for most of the structures found within: muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, veins, internal organs and the spinal cord. Fascia is a system; it is one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. Understanding this aspect of fascia can illustrate how everything in our body is related; how muscles or structures can influence how other muscles and structures feel and work. In a healthy state, fascia is relaxed and flexible. However, when fascia is traumatized by injury, surgery, repetitive stress or inflammation it loses its pliability and can create dysfunction.
Myofascial restrictions can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch. You can imagine what affect that can have on muscles, nerves and internal organs. It is thought that a vast majority of people suffering from chronic pain or loss of mobility may be having fascial problems. Just remember that if the fascia becomes tight and restricted in one area it can affect the rest of the body, and will influence the overall comfort and function of the body. Once myofascial restriction begins, it is a viscous cycle in which the tissues becomes inflamed, loose circulation and grow to be ischemic. Myofascial release techniques aim to break this cycle.
There have been several landmark therapists over the years that have used the term myofascial in reference to their work, yet their techniques are rather varied. Such powerhouses as Dr. Janet Travell, Dr. Ida Rolf, and most recently John F. Barnes PT have all described their techniques as myofascial work. What is most widely used today leans more towards the teachings of Travell and Barnes and is referred to as indirect myofascial release. Believing that the fascia, with a little encouragement, will ‘unwind’ itself, indirect myofascial release involves mostly gentle stretches using only a few grams of pressure. Some key principles of the treatment are as follows:
- Myofascial release in one area of the body can be felt in and will affect the other body areas.
- Release of myofascial restrictions can affect other body organs through a release of tension in the whole fascia system.
Myofascial release is a powerful massage technique that allows therapists to gently release tension in the fascia; therefore affecting function and mobility throughout the body. It takes patience and a steady hand, but the benefits are well worth the investment of time. Many of our massage therapists are trained in this specialized technique, so please give us a call to learn more about myofascial release and to book an appointment today.