Myofascial release involves a gentle form of stretching and compression. Also referred to as “soft tissue mobilization” or “MFR,” this special therapy releases the uneven tightness in injured fascia. Fascia is the dense, tough tissue that surrounds and covers the body’s organs, muscles and bones.
Normally, the fascia is relaxed and soft and can stretch without restriction. However, following physical trauma or inflammation, fascia can become stiff and become a sense of tension throughout the body. Myofascial release is different from massage, which focuses on muscles. This approach treats the causes of pain, not just the symptoms.
Who benefits from myofascial release?
Myofascial release has been used to improve the health of the muscles and fascia, improve circulation and restore good posture. It has been used to treat:
- Head injuries
- Cerebral palsy
- Birth trauma
- Neurological dysfunction
- Movement dysfunction
- Sleep difficulties
- Feeding difficulties
- Joint pain and limited joint movement
- Back strain
- Chronic back pain, low back pain, thoracic back pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Complex pain complaints
- Myofascial pain dysfunction
- Plantar fasciitis
- Post polio symptoms
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
- Trigger points
- Tender points
How is myofascial release performed?
To begin each treatment, the therapist finds the area of tightness and applies light pressure and/or stretch to the tight area. The therapist waits for the tissue to relax and then increases the stretch. The process is repeated until the area is fully relaxed. Then, the next area is stretched.
The therapist is guided by feedback he or she feels from the patient’s body. This feedback tells the therapist how much force to use, the direction of the stretch and how long to stretch. Small areas of muscle are stretched at a time. Sometimes the therapist uses only two fingers to stretch a small part of a muscle. The therapist will be able to find sore spots just by feel.
Often, patients are unable to pinpoint some sore spots or have grown used to them until the physical therapist finds them. The size and sensitivity of these sore spots, called myofascial trigger points, usually decrease with treatment. Progress is measured by a decrease in the patient’s pain and by an improvement in overall posture and movement.
Does myofascial therapy hurt?
Overall, myofascial release is a gentle therapy. Some patients fall asleep during treatment or take a nap afterwards.
What ages are best suited for this type of therapy?
Myofascial therapy can be done on patients of all ages including immediately after birth, especially after a Cesarian section in which the newborn has not experienced the variety of compressions attained during the birth canal experience.