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Myofascial Release


Woman stretching back to increase flexibility and relieve pain

Myofascial release is a manual therapy which targets fascia, so that movement of the body can be restored and painful restrictions alleviated. It is a holistic and global approach which addresses musculoskeletal complaints, improves posture, offers relief from pain, improves athletic performance and reduces stress.


Fascia is a continuous network of tough connective tissue that surrounds and connects all of your muscles, organs and bones in the body. It provides protection, structural support and stability within the body and when working well, provides strength whilst allowing flexibility throughout the body. However, due to injuries, repetitive movements, poor posture, tension, restrictions or lack of movement, fascia can become tight, restricting movement and function of joints and surrounding tissues, and cause pain (Myers, 2016 and Myers et al., 2022).


What is Myofascial Release?


Myofascial release is a manual hands-on therapy which aims to loosen restrictions and tension within the fascia, to rebalance to body, restore full movement and reduce pain (Ajimsha et al, 2014). It is often combined with other massage techniques to gently work through the different layers of tissue, so that bones and joints connected by fascia are able to move freely again. Myofascial release looks at the body as a whole rather than zooming in on a particular area and is often used alongside postural analysis and global ranges of movement assessment. Myofascial release can be performed directly (as with trigger point therapy) where the practitioner holds a sustained but tolerable pressure over the targeted area until the tissues beneath relax and loosen. It can also be performed indirectly by stretching another area in the opposite direction to the restriction, so that the fascial plane is stretched. You may be advised how to perform stretches or self-myofascial release using a foam roller or a ball (Myers, 2017) as part of your care.


Who would benefit from Myofascial release?


  • Musculoskeletal complaints: Myofascial release can help relieve acute and chronic pain from muscles, scar tissue and trigger points, which in turn helps increase joint function and range of motion. Most musculoskeletal complaints such as low back pain, mid-back pain, neck pain and tension headaches, frozen shoulder or other shoulder conditions, tennis and golf elbow, wrist complaints such as carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, knee complaints, ankle injuries and plantar fasciitis, benefit from treating the fascia and in turn, the surrounding connective tissue and muscles so that movement of the joints and nerves is restored.

  • Improved posture: Poor posture from prolonged sitting or standing incorrectly can cause pain in various areas of the body. Myofascial release can help alleviate tensions across lines of fascia connecting the body, rebalancing the body and reducing pain.

  • Athletic performance: Repetitive actions leading to imbalances across the body or repetitive strain (common in asymmetric sports like tennis or golf) and other injuries encountered during sport, can be treated with myofascial release to aid recovery. Athletic performance can be improved by rebalancing movement globally across the body, increasing mobility and flexibility (Sulowska-Daszyk et al., 2022), reducing recovery time and reducing risk of injury.

  • Stress reduction: Emotional stress and trauma is often carried within the body (think of how your shoulders rise up and you tense your jaw when stressed). Myofascial release can help relax these tensions and the process of the treatment itself is a relaxing and an important act of self-care.

  • Pregnancy and Childbirth: During pregnancy and the postnatal period, important areas of fascia along the linea alba (the line of fascia connecting your abdominals) get stretched and can separate (a condition called diastasis recti), and other areas of fascia along the back and pelvis can tighten. This can lead to pain and dysfuntion throughout the back, pelvis and hips that can last throughout pregnancy and beyond. Myofascial release can form an important and safe tool in the recovery of the core and in the relief from pelvic girdle pain, pelvic floor dysfunction and incontinence, and diastasis recti (Ahmed Zahran, et al., 2019).

In summary, myofascial release is an important part of the treatment of soft tissues and joints and can benefit a number of musculoskeletal and nerve conditions. Fascia forms a continuous network throughout the body so needs to be considered when treating the person in a holistic way. A lifetime of strains, injuries, poor posture, pregnancy and childbirth, stress and tension can be held within the fascia and is often an overlooked area when treating musculoskeletal conditions. Myofascial release can be an effective method of restoring movement, function, flexibility and reducing pain.

Feel free to get in touch for more information on how myofascial release may benefit you.



References:


Ajimsha, MS., Al-Mudahka, NR., Al-Madzhar, JA. (2014). Effectiveness of myofascial release: systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 19(1): 102-112 [Online]. Available at: Effectiveness of myofascial release: systematic review of randomized controlled trials - PubMed (nih.gov) (Accessed 06.06.2023).

Lee, DG., Lee, LJ., McLaughlin, L. (2008). Stability, Continence and Breathing: The Role of Fascia Following Pregnancy and Delivery Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 12(4): 333-348 [Online] Available at: Stability, continence and breathing: The role of fascia following pregnancy and delivery - ScienceDirect (Accessed 06.06.23).

Myers, TW. (2016). Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual & Movement Therapists 3rd Ed., Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, pp. 4-5, 12-20.

Myers, TW., and Earls, J. (2022). Fascial Release for Structural Balance 2nd Ed. Chichester, Lotus Publishing, pp.9-19.

Sulowska-Daszyk, I., and Skiba, A. (2022). The Influence of Self-Myofascial Release on Muscle Flexibility in Long-Distance Runners International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19(1) 457 [Online] Available at: IJERPH | Free Full-Text | The Influence of Self-Myofascial Release on Muscle Flexibility in Long-Distance Runners (mdpi.com) [Accessed 06.06.23)



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