Myofascial Release Therapy
Myo (muscle) fascia (connective tissue) is a form of soft tissue therapy used to treat somatic (muscle) dysfunction and accompanying pain and restriction of motion. This is accomplished by releasing or relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation, increasing venous and lymphatic drainage and stimulating the stretch reflex of muscle and overlying fascia.
To understand how this works, we must first understand what fascia is. Fascia or connective tissue is a seamless web of connective tissue that connects, covers and holds muscles bone and organs in place. Fascia envelopes every structure in the body; every bone, muscle, organ nerve down to the cellular level. This web unifies all the parts of the body together. This tissue helps give our bodies its shape and helps the framework to keep us in an upright position.
Injuries, poor posture and trauma can cause restrictions to the fascia. Because the fascial system is interconnected throughout the body, a restriction in one place over time can start to affect other parts of the body, like the pull of a sweater. These restrictions will cause pain, muscle spasm and limited range of motion to protect the injured area.
The goal of myofascial release therapy is to identify where the restriction is by visual postural evaluation and palpation techniques, then apply the manual technique for stretching the fascia to release the restrictions that are causing the system to be out of balance. By releasing these restrictions the body can achieve a more "normal" functioning state.
There are two methods of using myofascial release; direct and indirect. The direct method works directly on the restricted fascia. The therapist will use elbows or knuckles to sink into the restricted tissue and put tension or a stretch to the fascia. This will help elongate the tissue and release the adhesions and restrictions. This is sometimes coined a deep tissue technique. The direct technique can have the misconception of being very painful. The idea is to get deeper within the fascia within your limits of tolerance.
The indirect technique starts with an exaggerated technique to allow the body to release or create slack in the restricted fascia. This is like a self corrective measure. Then a slow gentle stretch is applied to the tissue and held for up to five minutes. Once the barrier or restriction is released a softening in the tissue will occur. This technique utilizes sustained pressure over time to achieve results. Some other techniques of the indirect approach consist of traction, skin rolling, rocking, jostling and shaking.
Both types of techniques are used throughout a course of treatment depending on the extent of your condition and how the fascia is responding during your treatment. Myofascial release can be an extremely effective form of treatment for soft tissue injuries.