So much talk today about alternative treatments for pain. So, what is this Myofascial Release or MFR? Why and how is it different from massage? Who can benefit from this treatment? These are a few of the questions I hope that this article will answer and give you a clear picture of how this treatment can and does work.
Myofascial release is a holistic hands-on treatment for the body to release holding patterns that produce pain and discomfort. The fascia which is a connective tissue that runs throughout your body interwoven throughout as a whole continuous system, meaning that there is no beginning or end. The fascia goes all the way down to the cellular level of our beings and is in a fluid like state. It is believed that this fascial system is controlled by the subconscious and naturally repairs itself as we sleep. Why is this so important? Let me explain.
When out fascial system gets disrupted weather due to an injury or from a holding pattern or posturing such as a muscle imbalance in most circumstances a person will go to sleep at night and the fascial system will work through the daily traumas of the day and release itself so that you wake refreshed and pain free. Sometimes especially for people who deal with chronic disease processes their sleep patterns become irregular or disturbed leading to ongoing fascial adhesions that are unable to release on their own. The body begins to fight itself and the daily traumas of bumps and bruises and postures is like adding accelerant to the fire that is the pain your body is already experiencing.
Many people in this state of pain will turn to prescriptions to decrease the pain and allow their sleep patterns to be restored. In some circumstances this is all it takes to break the pain cycle and restore sleep for the body to heal. Other times even after medical interventions the pain remains in control. Pain limits a person’s ability to rest and in turn more adhesions occur adding insult to the injury. This is where Myofascial Release aka MFR is sought out for treatment.
Myofascial Release directly works on the fascial system through sustained holding patterns into the fascial layer of the soft tissue to wait on the release of these tissues. This is one of the main differences between MFR and massage. With massage the tissue is worked to soften or let go through continuous movements and deep pressures to wear the muscle or soft tissue out until it relaxes. Since the MFR waits for the tissue to release the results are longer lasting following treatment.
Myofascial Release also helps to break down the muscle memory that occurs with long standing postures are muscle imbalances are present. Let’s look at some different conditions and how MFR is used for treatment.
Headaches and Myofascial Release
So many people suffer from headaches and migraines daily. Often these headaches are related to postures that cause muscle imbalances and holding patterns that produce fascial adhesions. Even in the cranium where the sutures are between the bony plates are fascial connections that can become adhered and throw out the normal craniosacral rhythm or micro movement patterns in these joints causing headaches to develop. A type of myofascial release can be used to treat this condition known as craniosacral release. Through light touch and different holds the natural rhythm can be restores opening these pathways and decreasing the fascial restrictions responsible for producing the headache.
Other times these headaches maybe caused from a forward head posture aka tech neck. This is where the anterior cervical muscle and soft tissues become adhered and the posterior cervical muscles and soft tissues become over stretched and weak causing muscle spasms that restrict blood flow into the base of the neck triggering headaches and migraines. By spotting these posture imbalances and performing myofascial release throughout the anterior cervical muscles and soft tissues we can restore the proper posturing and decrease pain and adhesions correcting the mechanics causing the headaches and migraines.
Chronic Neck Pain and Myofascial Release
Often people experience chronic neck pain because of degenerative spine changes that may occur from heredity or normal wear and tear of daily activities. When these changes occur, you can experience loss of disc space between vertebrae and end up with bone-on-bone joints that lead to pinching of nerves and arthritis producing pain. Myofascial release can help along with traditional treatments such as traction can help to manage this pain. Changes in your structure will lead to postural abnormalities where the soft tissue and fascia become adhered in these postures. Myofascial release can be administered to your cervical soft tissue to increase skin mobility and cervical range of motion to decrease the insult on top of the injury. By limiting the tightness and restriction of the soft tissue the joint can move easier and with the combination of traction we can increase the joint space that has been lost creating more space for the nerves and limiting pain with functional mobility.
Shoulder Pain/Impingement and RTC Tendonitis/Tears
Some common diagnosis that we see and treat in the shoulder are linked to myofascial adhesions that can cause the injury. For example, patients with shoulder impingement may have started this process with poor posture of rounded shoulders and a forward head while sitting in front of a computer. The pectoral muscles in the front of our chest become shortened after prolonged positioning in these postures. The head of the Humerus bone in our upper arm will move into and internally rotated positon and then the tissues surrounding the bone shorten not allowing the shoulder to move out of this position. The shoulder become impinged in this positon. This can lead to pain which can in turn lead to lack of mobility and decrease shoulder range of motion ending up with in severe cases adhesive capsulitis or otherwise known as frozen shoulder. Sometimes this type of posturing can be responsible for increasing inflammation at the joint line and into the tendon of these shortened muscles causing a tendonitis. Continuous wear and tear of the rotator cuff muscles having to work in the wrong positions can lead to wearing and tears. Myofascial release performed into the pectoral muscles and the thoracic inlet of the chest can decrease the adhesions of these muscles and allow for improved posturing that can be maintained then with postural strengthening exercise and stretching program.
Lumbar and Pelvis Dysfunction and Myofascial Release
Working our way down let’s address some common diagnosis of the lumbar and pelvic regions. Just as in the cervical spine wear and tear occur in the lumbar spine resulting in degenerative joint disease, degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, protrusion or bulges. Along with facet dysfunction and sacroiliac dysfunction to name a few. These diagnoses have a fascial component and can respond well to myofascial release with a conjunction of traditional therapy such as lumbar stabilization and flexibility exercise. Take for instance, sacroiliac dysfunction. Often a patient will experience pain on one side verses both sides of the SIJ. We look at the pelvis 3 dimensionally to see how it is off set. Sometimes when there are muscle imbalances and holding patterns or adhesions in the soft tissue the joints can become off set and appear to cause a leg length discrepancy. Walking around with this posture imbalance can lead to compensation of other muscles and pain. Myofascial release can be used to increase the fascia and soft tissue mobility of these muscles responsible to realign the posture. In some cases, with the pelvis you will find that the hip hiker muscle the quadratus lumborum becomes shortened on one side of the low back. This can make that leg appear short. The use of a leg pull for a fascial release with a contract relax of this muscle can even out the pelvic posture to decrease tension on the joint causing pain. Then with traditional therapy of stretching and strengthening you can help prevent this imbalance from occurring again.