Myofascial release, also known as MFR, is a clinical massage therapy technique that can be used to release fascial restrictions that contribute to chronic pain.
How does fascia become restricted?
Myofascial tissue is primarily made up of collagen fibers that tend to be oriented in a wavy pattern and therefore have some “give.” This is important because it helps explain how responsive fascia is to directional pull. In our everyday lives, this pull comes from muscle movement, or lack thereof, as well as gravity. Fascia can become restricted due to trauma, oftentimes ongoing trauma, which can lead to postural adaptations, such as making yourself “smaller” by contracting your shoulders forward. As a result, the fascia becomes less pliable and pulls on adjacent fascia and other structures such as muscles and bones, resulting in chronic pain or discomfort.
How does MFR work?
MFR uses the same principles that cause fascial restrictions to correct; it takes that “give” and pulls back in a sort of tug-o-war with trauma. MFR uses sustained unidirectional pressure to release restricted fascia and is generally performed without oils or lotions in order to specifically target fascial tissue, as opposed to muscle tissue. So as your massage therapist holds sustained and moderate pressure, the fascia slowly, and sometimes verrrrry slowly, releases. The release usually feels like a mild and generally pleasant burning sensation.
One of my favorite teachers explained it simply: “Figure out where the bones belong, and move the fascia that way.” Gently and over time, consistent MFR sessions can help to literally reposition your bones, improving posture and reducing chronic pain.
What are some of the benefits of MFR?
MFR decreases the pressure of restricted fascia on pain sensitive structures, such as nerves and blood vessels. It also promotes proper alignment and increased joint mobility. Because fascia creates a matrix throughout the body, reducing fascial tension in one area often leads to decreased tension in other areas.
MFR is truly holistic in that it is not about going after a particular muscle or “spot” in the body. Instead it is about looking at your body as a whole, particularly postural deviations or restrictions in mobility, and encouraging the fascial tissue to “release” at the rate at which it is ready to move. As a result, MFR is very effective in promoting pain relief, as well as improving posture.
What exactly is fascia? And what is myofascial tissue?
Fascia is a type of connective tissue. Myofascial tissue is fascia associated with the muscles (myo = muscle) and can be further classified into the categories of “superficial myofascia” and “deep myofascia.” There is one other type of fascia, known as visceral fascia, which surrounds organs and does not fall under the category of myofascia. So although I hope all of your visceral fascia is in tip top shape, when I talk about fascia, I mean myofascial tissue, both superficial and deep.
So what does fascia look like? If you have ever seen raw skinless chicken, you have probably noticed a thin layer of whitish stuff around the meat. That’s fascia, and we have it too. (Vegetarians, I do apologize, but you probably know what I’m talking about, yes?)
Myofascial tissue can be found almost everywhere in our bodies. Superficial fascia could be thought of as a layer of skin on the inside of our bodies, and it in fact blends with the dermis, or innermost layer of our skin. It forms a giant matrix that holds all of our muscles together. Our muscles must all work together as a system, and superficial fascia is like a layer of plastic wrap that keeps all of them in proper formation, providing stability, cushioning, and protection.
There are different fascial planes or lines in our bodies; for example, the superficial back line runs the length of the backside of our body, beginning with the plantar fascia on the bottom of our feet and running up the backs of our legs, all the way up our backs and around the top of the head to the forehead.
Click here and then click on the amazing video on the far right to see for yourself (warning: not for the faint of heart).
Deep fascia surrounds individual muscles, forming barriers between muscles to keep them from sticking to one another. Again, think of it as plastic wrap that individually encases each of our muscles, allowing them to slide and glide across one another for smooth and coordinated movement.
An MFR session usually focuses on superficial fascia, as its body wide matrix tends to be intimately involved in postural issues.
Questions? Contact me for more information about MFR, or to schedule an appointment.