Myofascial release is a therapy aimed at releasing the restrictions in the fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and muscle fibers. It is both superficial, which runs just under the skin, surrounding the entire muscle, and deep, surrounding each individual muscle fiber.
It is made up of three components, which give it a combination of elasticity and resistance, as well as shock absorption. It helps support muscles, as well as serving as a conduit for nerves and blood vessels. That is, the nerves and blood vessels are found within this connective tissue.
As a result of injury, trauma, poor posture, and inflammation, the fascia can get stuck, putting too much pressure on the muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels. Pressure that can cause pain. Myofascial Release seeks to alleviate this pain or tension by releasing the restrictions in the fascia.
Because the fascia is three-dimensional, located throughout the body, a restriction in one area could cause a problem in another area. If an area of the body is restricted in its movement, then the muscles above or below that point, or on the other side, can take over, working harder than intended.
I have worked on more than one person with hip or back pain on one side that had as much or more tension on the other side. This is because the side that is now suffering has been compensating for the lack of movement on the other side. And over time, the muscles they were compensating became overused, creating additional pain or dysfunction.
Release takes shape through a long-lasting, low-force stretch. Very light pressure is used in combination with a stretch that lasts from 90 seconds to about 3 minutes or more. The theory is that this long-duration, low-force stretch will cause the restraints to gradually unwind, restoring this connective tissue to its normal length.
So, one of the advantages of this work is the absence of pain that it entails. Deep tissue massage and antiretroviral therapy can be quite painful at times. With chronic injuries, some type of deep tissue work is usually done prior to this stretch, to help break down adhesions in the elastic fibers and / or release tension on the body’s nervous system.
The theory is that the restraints are too strong to break completely with deep tissue work and need this prolonged stretch to completely change the fascia. One of the main developers of this technique is the physical therapist John Barnes, who has been working with this technique for more than 30 years.
I have used this technique with people in clinical settings and have used it elsewhere with good results. Using it with those who suffer from headaches, I have had very good success. Since most headaches are the result of too much tension in the neck and shoulders, using it after massage to relax the muscles usually gets the job done.
For those currently experiencing a major headache, such as an 8 or 9 on a pain scale of 1 to 10, it may not work. For most others, the headache goes away or is significantly reduced in 5 to 10 minutes. It also works on other areas of the body.
Used by some physical therapists and massage therapists, it also works well with a chiropractic adjustment. In a chiropractic clinic where I worked, I worked with a man whose neck was twisted to one side and very stiff, with some uncontrollable shaking. He went to a regional hospital and a nationally known clinic, and they both tried different things with little success.
The first time I worked with him, his neck felt like a brick, without the soft tissue feel that a normal person would have. By combining deep tissue work with myofascial release and adjustments, he gradually made changes with his neck. This took some time and more exercise for him to function better. Not perfect, but definitely better than before.
So if you have a high pain tolerance and not a lot of patience, you can try active release (ART) or myofascial release, which may take a bit longer, but is also very effective. Myofascial release can be performed with acute injuries (those that have occurred recently) as well as the elderly, using less pressure. Active release is intended for chronic injuries.
It should not be used with people with an aneurysm, acute rheumatoid arthritis, uncontrolled diabetes, open wounds, or broken bones.
It is intended to be used with exercise and other forms of therapy for optimal results. A very nice complement is joint mobility training.