What Is Myofascial Release?
Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. The pain usually originates from specific points within your myofascial tissues called “trigger points.”
Myofascial release focuses on reducing pain by easing the tension and tightness in the trigger points. It’s not always easy to understand what trigger point is responsible for the pain. Localizing pain to a specific trigger point is very difficult. For that reason, myofascial release is often used over a broad area of muscle and tissue rather than at single points.
Myofascial describes a symptom or treatment that relates to the connective tissue of the muscles — the fasciae — and the muscles themselves. Practitioners treat myofascial pain using myofascial release, physical manipulation aimed at relaxing the muscles and fasciae. Many events can cause myofascial pain, including physical strain, surgery, and inflammatory conditions that tighten the muscles. Often, people feel the pain from these knot-like constrictions at a different point in the body than the specific problem area. The release of these origins or “trigger points” can alleviate pain.
Fasciae (plural of fascia) enclose muscles and organs with a fibrous sheet. They are similar to ligaments and tendons but surround rather than join muscle tissue. Fasciae can become sensitive and tighten around the muscle, causing pain. These are the trigger points a massage therapist or other practitioner will “release” to help ease the pain.
What Is Fascia?
Connective tissues called fascia to surround our muscles and envelop our entire bodies. Fasciae also play a key role in regulating our immune systems. However, inflammation, fibrosis, and thickening of our fascia can limit our range of motion and cause pain.
Injuries, inflammations, and surgeries can restrict fascia and create many health problems. For example, fascial restrictions can put up to 2,000 pounds per square inch (psi) on sensitive internal organs and structures, causing great pain. Additionally, fascial restrictions don’t show up on most body scans (x-rays, CAT scans, etc.).
Benefits of Myofascial Release Massage Therapy
Improves your blood flow
Recent studies have clearly demonstrated that myofascial release massage therapy helps in increasing vascular function. Since the practice involves getting rid of the tensions and knots in the fascia that could be restricting the flow of fluid in the area, the technique helps keep the connective tissues as well as the muscles hydrated. And do you know what that means? Better, faster recovery and healing.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
- Muscle and joint pain
- Migraine headaches
- Back pain
- Injuries due to poor shoulder or hip alignment
Myofascial release therapy eliminates pain caused by muscles or other connective tissues that are “tied down” by tight fascia. Also, damaged fascial tissue can contribute to pain at “trigger points” that restrict blood flow to nearby areas, causing the damage to spread.
Some undergo myofascial release treatments to achieve better muscular and skeletal alignment before surgery. Others use it to increase their sports performance.
One of the major reasons why athletes go for myofascial release is to decrease the pain in their bodies. Basically, when they are exposed to pain for some time, it can cause both emotional and physical stress. This practice not only helps in reducing this pain but also addresses other areas of the body that may be dysfunctional. It does this by helping release the natural pain killers in the body known as endorphins. There is no need to go for prescription drugs; this practice has a high success rate.
There are numerous studies that indicate that myofascial release increases the range of muscular motion, without necessarily decreasing muscle activation or force. Since the idea of this practice is breaking up the tensions in the fascia, the connective tissues and muscles are able to move freely, helping you avoid restrictions that arise from exercise.
Strengthens the immune system
The immune system helps the body heal injuries and ward off infections. When there are tensions in the fascia, the lymphatic flow tends to become sluggish, leading to less movement and an active lifestyle. Worst still, it even goes ahead to create more dysfunction in your lymphatic system. This bodywork improves the lymph’s circulation throughout the body, which increases your recovery from illness and better recovery.
Reduces muscle soreness
With better circulation, it means that you are less likely to experience muscle soreness. Myofascial release massage therapy works by relieving tensions that may arise in the entire myofascial network, helping your muscles and connective tissues return to normal function. This also helps in maintaining normal muscular length.
Improves nerve function
Do you know that pain, tingling or numbness in your legs and arms are often caused by facial adhesion’s that press on your nerves? That’s true. When you have muscle tensions, whether due to running or other forms of exercise, you are likely to experience these problems. This practice helps in releasing that pressure placed on your nerves, bringing new awareness to all affected areas. This is the reason why doctors recommend bodywork in nerve dysfunction areas, even after giving prescription drugs.
Myofascial release massage therapy is growing in popularity, and for a good reason. Although many people know this practice as just helping ease pain in body organs, its benefits surpass that. These are some of the health benefits that you can reap with myofascial release.
Who Might Benefit From Myofascial Release?
Patients with myofascial pain syndrome frequently benefit from this type of therapy. People who experience chronic headaches may also find relief from myofascial release. Gently massaging on tightened muscles in and around the neck and head may reduce headaches.
Some people with venous insufficiency, which occurs when blood pools in the deep veins of the leg, may also be candidates for myofascial release. During venous insufficiency, the blood pool stretches and eventually damages the veins in your legs. You may experience an aching and painful sensation in the affected leg. The myofascial release might be used in conjunction with other treatments to reduce the pooling and pain caused by venous insufficiency.
How Does Myofascial Release Work?
Most myofascial release treatments take place during a massage therapy session. Some chiropractors and traditional medical practitioners may also offer it.
Your therapist will gently massage the myofascia and feel for stiff or tightened areas. Normal myofascia should feel pliable and elastic. The therapist will begin massaging and stretching the areas that feel rigid with light manual pressure. The therapist then aids the tissue and supportive sheath in releasing pressure and tightness. The process is repeated multiple times on the same trigger point and on other trigger points until the therapist feels the tension is fully released.
What Are the Risks of Myofascial Release?
Myofascial release by massage therapy has very few risks. Whether you’re trying to relax or aiming to ease back pain, massage therapy may be beneficial for pain reduction.
However, massage isn’t ideal for people:
- with burns, injuries, or painful wounds
- with fractures or broken bones
- with fragile or weak bones
- with deep vein thrombosis or deep vein issues
- taking blood-thinning medications
In very rare cases, massage therapy may cause:
- internal bleeding
- temporary paralysis or difficulty moving your muscles
- allergic reaction to oils, gels, or lotions
- nerve damage
Does Science Support Myofascial Release?
Most studies look at massage and chiropractic manipulation. However, there are few studies that look at myofascial release specifically. This is because therapy styles differ from practitioner to practitioner. This means broad medical support is difficult to come by. Doctors may be more apt to recommend more traditional treatments.
Still, because of the relative lack of risk, many patients with chronic or even short-term back pain may be interested in trying it to see if the therapy provides any relief. This is especially true if you’re trying to avoid surgery.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.