If you’ve ever received massage for chronic or acute pain resulting from an injury or overuse, you may have heard of the term “myofascial release.”

The Fascial System

Your body is comprised of one network of fascia, which is a system of uninterrupted connective tissue that surrounds your organs, bones and muscles. It is compared to saran wrap (think thin layers of tissue) and is responsible for maintaining structural integrity; without it, your body would be one messy heap on the floor.

The Compromised Fascial System

With overuse, postural misalignment or injury, these connective tissues and muscles can become overstretched, hyper-tonic, weakened or inflamed, causing pain, decreased function, and restricted range of motion. Chronic inflammation or irritation of the fascial tissues can result in a thickening of the tissues (fibrosis). And like a pull in a sweater, a knot or fascial restriction in one part of the body can cause pain and tightness eventually in another part of the body. This is the perfect set up for something called the “pain spasm pain cycle,” where pain creates spasms in the muscles, which creates more pain and then more spasms and so on.

Myofascial release: To the rescue

Myofascial release is a type of manual therapy used to release the restrictions that occur in such cases in order to eliminate pain, restore muscle function, increase range of motion and interrupt the “pain spasm pain” cycle. Unlike Swedish massage, where lotion or oil is typically used, myofascial release requires very little or no lotion, in order to allow the therapist to “hook” into the fascial system. Warming up the tissues with myofascial release can take time, and it can even seem like nothing is happening at first. A therapist applies light sustained pressure in an area to allow the tissues to liquefy and soften, providing access to the deeper layers of the fascial system where subsequent deeper work can create changes not only locally, but throughout the entire body.

Who can benefit from Myofascial Release

Anyone experiencing any of the following can benefit from this modality:

  • neck, shoulder, back pain
  • sports injuries
  • correcting poor postural alignment that develop over time from too much desk/computer work
  • auto accident related injuries: whiplash, back pain, headaches, etc.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The next time you’re experiencing pain or have a musculoskeletal injury, ask your massage therapist about myofascial release and how it may help restore function and balance in your body.

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