Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. (Source: https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/myofascial-release)
The approach here is unique in that the therapist does not actually use oil, lotion, and such other artificial emollients during the treatment (contrast to what you would experience in a Swedish or Deep Tissue Massage). The science behind this is fascinating for some, mind numbing for others, but beneficial for all.
The method of action in myofascial release is maintaining some sort of traction with the tissues and creates an environment that can actually stretch and manipulate the fascia. The results are incredibly more effective than your typical massage at a local franchise.
When is myofascial release used in massage therapy?
Rolfing, Structural Integration, Active Release Techniques… they all use some form of myofascial release. The philosophies might differ between each of the organizations but each accepts that you cannot have myofascial release when you add lotion. As soon as some sort of lotion is applied, you lose any form of traction or friction with the body and it creates a barrier to treatment. That’s not to say that Swedish Massages aren’t effective, they just aren’t as effective when you have a different goal you are trying to achieve.
What could prevent someone from receiving myofascial release?
Contraindications like open sores, acute trauma and inflammation are universal to bodywork but, in myofascial release, we also have to consider the quality of recipient’s skin. Sometimes, if the body is dehydrated, there may be an uncomfortable stretch felt on the surface (similar to a friction burn) and it is very uncomfortable. Most of the time, this can be remedied by splashing a little bit of water onto the skin but other times, a cautionary amount oil or lotion can be used (being careful not to add too much and risking losing all of the traction).
Who might benefit from myofascial release?
The massage therapy and bodywork community uses a variety of modalities to treat and manage soft tissue pain. Swedish Massage is very effective with calming the nervous system and increasing circulation, deep tissue (sometimes confused with deep “pressure”), Lymphatic Drainage is popular for increasing lymph flow after surgeries… and so on.
Myofascial release would be ideal for athletes or even the general population that struggle with specific pains that Swedish Massage or Deep Tissue Massage fail to resolve. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder
- Muscle and joint pain
- Migraine headaches
- Back pain
- Frozen Shoulder (or Adhesive Capsulitis)
- Injuries due to poor shoulder or hip alignment
Combining myofascial release with cupping, IASTM, Rock Tape (kenisiology taping) and corrective exercises is the best way to get the most out of your massage. If you’re fighting to resolve your pain, a Clinical Sports Massage could be the solution.