Myofascial Release Therapy
Myofascial release (MFR) is a manual therapy used for the rehabilitation and treatment of fascial restrictions and tension. It treats the fascia or connective tissue surrounding muscles by applying compression or pressure in various directions, or skin rolling of the skin using your fingers.
What Is Fascia?
‘Myo’ refers to the muscle and ‘fascia’ refers to the connective tissue. This connective tissue is a white sheath covering organs, ligaments, bones, and muscles. Fascia is a continuous web of collagen (40%) and elastin fibers.
Fascia is very strong. Dense fascia can have a tensile strength that is 2-8 X’s the strength of the muscle it surrounds. Not only that, but the amount of pressure required to feel and affect change in the fascia differs from muscle group to muscle group. For instance, the amount of pressure on the fascia located in the iliotibial (IT) band is different to the fascia located by the calf muscle.
Causes of Myofascial Pain
The fascia can harden and scar due to either emotional and physical trauma. This occurs along the tension lines on the fascia. As a result, the fascial network loses its cushioning mechanism and the internal structures also lose their alignment. This causes the nerves and lymphatic vessels to be constricted under constant pressure.
Sub-optimal food choices, lack of optimal rest and activity, and emotional stress can contribute to a buildup of metabolic waste in the body’s superficial fascia. This can lead to restrictions that impede proper flow of nutrients and waste products between your skin, fascia, and muscles.
Fascia and Injury and Recovery
Diet can predispose your muscles and even underlying ligaments to injuries such as strains and sprains. Fascia can lose flexibility keeping muscles in unhealthy positions creating imbalances in the body. Long periods of inactivity or sitting in one position can cause stiffening up over time. A combination of these factors will determine how injury prone your body is.
Benefits Of Myofascial Release Therapy
Even though the fascia is not innervated by the nervous system you will gain better movement, substitutional movement, and less chronic pain by addressing fascia issues. Other benefits include improving lymphatic and blood circulation by stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.
Like several alternative therapies, myofascial release therapy is based on the concept of the body and mind working in combination to ensure good health. The body is capable of remembering emotions, actions and postural positions without constant reminders from the brain. Microscopic cells that contain energy run throughout the body’s fascial system and they can retain memory.
Working With Fascia
Working with fascia is tricky. It is so tough that there is doubt if it can really be changed at all. If you want to see how your body responds then it is best to mobilize the fascia using deep, prolonged, and tangential friction directly on the skin with(out) creams or massage oils.
Stretching fascia can also be beneficial to those needing force to elongate and hold the fascia into new patterns. Getting the correct instruction and then continuing at home is recommended.
Skin rolling is another option. Review this for video instruction on how to do it.
There are many other techniques such as cross-hand’ stretches, focused stretches, J-stretches, fascial glide, deep 3-dimensional stretches, following fascia layers in their direction of ease, pulls, focused rebounding, shaking or rocking, tender point treatment and trigger point release. Trigger point release is always used along side myofascial release for maximum benefits.
Working on fascia is a long term process. The ligaments, tendons, and muscles are part of fascia so they also need to be addressed. Since the body is a kinetic chain, neglecting or for that matter, treating only one of them in isolation will delay positive results.
Movement is life, so doing basic lifestyle changes like resistance training, along with diet is the best advice to keep you a life-long-athlete.