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What is Myofascial Release?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 April 2014
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Myofascial release is a type of soft tissue massage which incorporates stretching and massage of the connective tissues, or fascia. It began to be a popular form of massage therapy in the late 1990s, when patients realized the potential for pain management and increased flexibility that it offered. Like other forms of massage therapy, there are a number of schools which offer certification in myofascial release. Massage students are expected to log a set number of classroom, textbook, and practice hours before they are certified.

This practice usually begins with a gentle massage which is designed to warm and loosen muscles. As the therapist works, he or she identifies areas of tension which require further attention, and will return to those areas to stretch and work the fascia. Sometimes myofascial release can be quite intense, especially in the case of muscles which are holding a great deal of tension and stress. After the session, some clients experience slight stiffness and soreness, which will usually vanish over the next few days, leaving behind a sense of well-being.

Myofascial release operates on the principle that many people hold stress in their muscles, which causes the muscles to seize or lock. This is exacerbated by muscle injury and scarring. It aims to access these areas of blockage and tension to release them, thereby freeing up the muscle and allowing it to move more easily and effectively.

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During sessions, the client may be manipulated in a wide variety of poses, or the massage therapist may only stretch a muscle in a small way, using a few fingers to get deep into the muscle and pull it into a beneficial stretch. Breathing in conjunction with the stretches is advised for maximum comfort and benefit.

In patients with fibromyalgia, back pain, and other muscle-associated health issues, myofascial release can be highly beneficial. For this reason, some doctors prescribe it in conjunction with other forms of therapy to give patients a greater range of options. It is frequently incorporated into pain management plans, and patients often feel positive effects after only a few sessions.

Regular myofascial release can improve posture, ease areas of muscle soreness, and improve flexibility. Like any course of massage therapy, patients should consult a doctor before embarking on a myofascial release program, to avoid conflicts with medical conditions or other treatments. A session should never be painful, and if pain is felt the therapist should work differently on the affected area or move to another location.

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Discuss this Article

parijb
Post 5

@sswift: You basically said the same thing as author of the article. You simply used the correct technical terms. Please remember, the purpose of these types of articles is not to help one get certified in massage therapy, but for the average Joe to get a basic understanding of some of the massage therapy concepts.

Obviously, you know your stuff, but I got the same understanding from the author of the article. Sometimes less is better. Your comments are best suited for "peer" review by other certified massage therapists. I'm just saying...

anon124378
Post 3

Have others, as I do, had problems getting Blue Cross Blue Shield to coverage this treatment under physical therapy coverages?? If so, what do you do? I have Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and this treatment helps me more than many other treatments that I have tried. Who can afford to pay for it without help from insurance though? Any suggestions?

anon26936
Post 2

I would like your opinion of rolling on large firm balls such as a backroller or shiatsu bag?

sswift
Post 1

Your article says that "Myofascial release operates on the principle that many people hold stress in their muscles, which causes the muscles to seize or lock." That is a very over simplified explanation. That definition could also apply to Swedish based techniques, based muscular stretching, hydrotherapy....and still be over simplified.

MFR operates on the principle that the fascia is an inert structure and is made of a fluid, a malleable matrix. When cross links form between fibers, the flexibility is lost and can even cause fibrosis. By breaking the cross link, the flexible nature of the fascia is restored (even in the more dense fascia their is fluid element to the cellular level), the incredible tension that adhered fascia can create is decreased. This can lead to less pain, better organ function, postural alignment and many other great things. Sarah RMT in BC Canada

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