What Is Myofascial Release?
Myo refers to muscle. Fascia is a connective tissue that surrounds every bone, muscle, tendon, ligament and organ in the human body. It is a protective sleeve that gives us our shape and holds us together. It goes from head to toe and every space in between with no interruptions or breaks. Fascia is a system of its own, just like the cardiovascular system or the digestive system.
One of its purposes is to tighten when the body senses danger or trauma. Accidents, surgeries, inflammation, and emotional trauma can cause the fascia to tighten. This tightening can be as great as 2,000 pounds per square inch. It’s like the body putting a physical barrier around itself to protect itself from harm or further harm. This is a survival mechanism and is done without our knowledge or control.
Over time, this tightening will remain and create a drag or pull on the muscles and the muscles and tissues nearby, or even in another part of the body. For example, tight fascia in the lower back can cause neck and shoulder pain or headaches, or leg and foot pain and even abdominal pain. This is because the tight fascia in the lower back can pull or drag any either direction.
Fascia is very fine and thread-like and therefore will not show up on an x-ray, MRI, or scan. For that reason, often times the source of pain cannot be seen. A myofascial release therapist has been trained to feel where the fascia has become tight and restricted, and release these areas.
Myofascial release is not a massage. No oils, lotions, or creams are used as there is no rubbing and gliding over the muscles. Myofascial release is a body treatment that utilizes sustained gentle pressure on tightened fascial tissues. The sustained gentle pressure allows the tissues to soften in their own time. There is never any force. Forcing the body puts the body into protective mode, more tightening. Gentle pressure allows the body to realize it’s not being hurt and initiates softening and healing of the tightened tissues, restoring the fascia to its healthy state, relieving pain, and increasing range of motion and quality of life.
There are many myofascial release therapists who practice a deep tissue or trigger point therapy. Our approach is John F. Barnes Myofascial Release. This is not deep tissue, but very profoundly effective.
To get the most out of your treatment, please do not wear body lotions or oils on the day of your treatment. You can put them on afterwards. For men, wear a pair of loose shorts. For women, a pair of loose shorts and a bra or sports bra. This allows the therapist access to the fascial tissues while remaining discreet and respectful. If you are LDS, you may change out of your garments and into your shorts and bra before your treatment and put them on again after. If you are not comfortable removing your garments, that will be respected.
Lie on the table and take some slow deep relaxing breaths. Allow yourself to feel where the therapist’s hands are and draw your attention to that area. Feel whatever you feel, without analyzing or describing what it is. You may tell the therapist what you are feeling if you wish, and sometimes that can be helpful in directing where to treat next. Bear in mind, however, that conversation can be distracting, so try and focus your statements and questions to the work at hand.
Sometimes a spontaneous movement will occur. This is the fascial system unwinding. Sometimes an emotion may surface. Feel free to express these emotions in any way you need. We all carry our emotions differently and we all release them differently. You will be safe and respected while you are being treated.
Myofascial release therapy is not an overnight cure. It may take several treatments, and the longer the tissues have been tight, the longer it will take for them to soften. That being said, there have been situations where someone does feel immediate relief. There is no timeframe for good results, so be patient with yourself and celebrate the small victories along the way.
Your therapist has been through these treatments and will never ask you to do anything he or she has not done themselves.
On a personal note, I had had a rotator cuff surgery that did not heal and ended in a frozen shoulder, and somewhat frozen neck, and in chronic pain, relying on narcotic medications for comfort. For 12 years doctors told me there was nothing that could be done about it. I met a myofascial release therapist and, without knowing anything about the work, began to notice some good results after a few weeks. Over the course of a few months, the shoulder and neck released and I now have full range of motion again. And the pain is gone. Which is why I know it works.
For some good reading about this work:
Healing Ancient Wounds, by John F. Barnes, PT
Touching Light, by Ronelle Wood
My Walk Down Myofascial Road, by Sharry Smith LMT
Or go to the website, myofascialrelease.com, for further information and discussion.
You deserve to be the healthiest and happiest you can be, whatever your age or situation. We are here to assist you along that path.