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.
Identifying and Correcting Perpetuating Factors
Shoulder pain doesn’t just happen. There are numerous perpetuating factors that can set up a condition of muscular imbalance and overload. Some of these, such as dysfunctional breathing, may seem unrelated but are actually extremely important (and common). Identifying and correcting perpetuating factors is what makes the difference between fixing the same problem each week and setting your client on a new, pain-free direction.
Possible perpetuators are very numerous. Some of the most common include:
Muscles are made to collaborate in an environment of relative balance and stability in the body. Postural distortion may occur due to anatomical variations such as a leg length discrepancy. Actual leg length differences are estimated to occur in approximately 18% of the general population, so this situation is not uncommon. LLD may cause issues with the QL, spinal erectors, glutes and shoulders, and any persistent patter of unilateral pain could be due to this situation.
Individuals with hypermobile ankles may exhibit an extreme tendency to pronate. This causes the ankle to collapse medially and tends to cause anterior (head forward) posture in the upper body. This situation can be corrected with extra support in the midfoot and forefoot.
Chest breathers overuse small muscles such as the pectoralis minor and scalenes to assist in expanding the rib cage. This causes many problems, and can set up shoulder and head neck pain.
There are many other factors that must be considered in a person’s lifestyle. Workstation ergonomics, sleep position, nutrition, stress must be considered. Be observant and read the Apropos of All Muscles chapter in Travell & Simons for extensive coverage of these issues.
Medications can be a powerful and unsuspected perpetuator of pain in the body. Few people are aware of the extensive pain-related side effects from many drugs. Some of the most common, like the statin family of drugs, have extensive muscular side effects and patients are often unsuspecting. Take the time to look up side effects for drugs.
A lot of people who are experiencing chronic pain, especially those who are suffering from certain conditions including Plantar Fasciitis, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and several others do their best to find the best pain management solution.
As such, some have resolved to move as minimum as possible, believing that the less action they make, the less pain they will face. Well, the opposite may actually be true. In fact, there is a recently introduced discipline these days, in the form of movement therapy. Movement Therapy is a whole lot like physical therapy. However, it involves several other aspects, such as introducing functional strength and corrective exercise, with a focus on manual therapy. Treatment through touch.
This type of therapy will work towards strengthening muscles, which in turn, improves muscle support provided towards the rest of the body. As you simply allow the muscles in your stomach to lose their strength, you might end up suffering more injuries, including back pain, neck pain, as well as migraines. This is because the muscles in your stomach also help in supporting your back.
Movement therapy also works in increasing endurance so that people who are suffering from these types of pain can still continue working on their everyday activities. As such, it is also proven to increase the stability of the joints, thus decreasing the events of falls, as well as the pain that is linked with swelling of joints.
It also increases flexibility in the joints and muscles of the body. Exercise also fosters the release of natural hormones in the body, the endorphins, which are the ones responsible in relieving pain. The exercise involved also makes an individual feel even better regarding them, thus helping to alleviate instances of depression that most people who are dealing with chronic pain usually deal with. As an added feature, it also helps individuals to maintain the recommended body weight. This factor also reduces pain.
There are a lot of conditions that can benefit from a movement therapy rehabilitation session. For example, those who are dealing with frozen shoulder, whiplash, sprains/strains, and others, are helped accordingly. In fact, almost all conditions that can cause pain can certainly be given treatment by simply implementing the right combination of techniques involved in movement therapy.
There are a lot of methods used in movement therapy. You definitely need to explore all of these methods, including their different combinations until you are able to select the best ones for your specific condition. However, it is highly recommended to take advantage of the assistance of a professional who can help you out. A movement therapist can help you in this regard, giving you the right solution for your specific need.