What is Myofascial Release?
Myofascial Release is an extremely effective "hands on" therapy for the treatment of chronic injuries, pain discomfort and reduced mobility; it is fast gaining recognition as the missing link in traditional healthcare. Myofascial Release is safe, gentle and effective; for many patients who have "tried everything" Myofascial Release can provide a very welcome relief. Myofascial Release treats injury at its source, allowing the patient to heal at the deepest level. It is a hands on, full body treatment, no oil is used and sustained gentle pressure is applied for a minimum of 120 seconds. For some releases pressure is applied for several minutes or longer; this allows the trained therapist to feel through and facilitate the release of restrictions within the fascial network. The time element is a vital factor: fascia cannot be forced as it will naturally meet that force in return. Myofascial Release Therapy, like many complementary therapies, promotes the philosophy that the mind and body work together to maintain health.
Myofascial Release techniques help to remove the "straight jacket effect" from the body by releasing restricted fascia. A skilled therapist will look at and treat the entire body, releasing fascial restrictions, helping to restore balance, decrease pain, increase function and improve systemic health.
What does Myofascia mean?
Myo means muscle, fascia means band.
What is fascia?
Fascia is a strong connective tissue than runs like a 3D web throughout our entire body, from head to toe. Fascia surrounds blood and lymph vessels, infuses bones and organs, and protects every other tissue in the body. In healthy patients fascia is relaxed, providing a cushioning, supportive mechanism, allowing us to move safely without restriction or pain. Fascia is made up of collagen, elastin and ground substance (the non-cellular constituents of extracellular matrix); the time factor in the MFR techniques allows the collagen component to release.
The importance of fascia has been missed in scientific research for decades, for two main reasons;
- Fascial restrictions do not show up on CAT scans, MRI or X-rays
- Historically scientists worked on cadavers (dead bodies) and removed the fascia to look at muscles, bones, organs etc without recognizing the importance of this continuous 3d web.
More recently Dr JC Gimberteau has used endoscopes to look inside the living human and realized the importance of a healthy fascial system. See clips:
What causes restrictions to occur?
Physical and emotional trauma, repetitive movements, poor posture and surgical procedures all scar and harden fascia in the affected area and along tension lines imposed on it. This causes the fascial network to lose its cushioning mechanism and internal structures are pulled out of alignment, causing pain, restriction and lack of function. One restriction may lead to another. Traditional healthcare frequently labels and treats symptoms or groups of symptoms; Myofascial Release looks for and treats the cause of the pain and immobility at its deepest level, restoring health and function to the entire system.
How MFR works
One restriction in the fascial network can lead to another, the job of the therapist is to peel off the layers and get to the root of the problem.
Memories can also become locked into the fascial system and manifest themselves in physical pain. With the help of MFR the physical and emotional content of any injury, literal or symbolic, can be addressed in a safe and gentle way.
Even though the patient may not feel much happening, the experienced practitioner can actually feel the fascial restrictions, and where they lead to, subsequently feeling the release of those restrictions during the session.
How can Myofascial Release help?
The aim of MFR techniques is to reduce pain and increase function, treating the root cause of pain and dysfunction. A skilled therapist will slowly feel into the fascial network, using a variety of different techniques and responding to the needs of the patient. The patient learns to bring their attention into their body and begin to feel what is going on inside their body. The therapist works with the patient at all times, engaging them in the treatment.
Without feeling there is no healing.
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What the patient feels: This varies enormously: some patients will feel very little going on, others might feel pins and needles type sensations, heat or cold running through their body, others will feel referred sensations to a totally different area of the body, which gives an indication of further restrictions. As the fascia is released it literally unwinds, this can cause movement of or within the patient's body. If the patient is aware of changes within their body it is helpful to communicate these to the practitioner. The therapist takes into consideration what they see in a postural assessment, and works directly with what they see, feel and sense during a session. Inevitably, there is a physical and emotional component to this work.
Why is MFR different?
The trained practitioner reads the body and responds to the needs of the patient. We do not just treat symptoms, but look beyond the symptom to the root cause. The time factor is essential in order for a restriction to fully release. Most traditional bodywork therapies do not allow sufficient time for the collagenous component of the fascia to release and therefore the results are temporary.
The elastic band analogy. If you take an elastic band and stretch it apart between your fingers, it will lengthen. As soon as you release it, the rubber band returns to its original length, producing temporary results just like traditional therapies. If however you put an elastic band around a book and leave it for 3-7 minutes, the elastic band will have lengthened, just like the lengthening of the body's tissues. This is what MFR achieves - lasting results.