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.
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.