What is myofascial release therapy?
Fascia is the thin, tough connective tissue that connects your skin to your muscles, all throughout your body. Fascia is very strong and also very elastic, but can become restricted after damage from injury. Because fascia connects like a webbing all over your body, therapies such as osteopathy or energy-based physiotherapy see manipulation of your fascia very beneficial to treating your body as a whole. This is in opposition to the traditional medical view of several different pieces stuck together working independently. In fact, fascia may provide physical evidence of connectivity that belies the common notion of our bodies being like machines with entirely separate systems.
Myofascial release was originally coined by an osteopath, although today you will find that many well-trained physiotherapists, massage therapists and chiropractors also practice this technique because of its effectiveness. Myofascial release is a hands-on treatment whose purpose is to break down scar tissue, relax your muscles and fascia, and improve posture.
Myofascial release therapy is usually slow in nature, and can be deep but does not always need to be as such. Many practitioners state that the technique should be painful to be effective, while others argue that proper use of the therapy does not need to be painful at all. These two methods of approach could be considered ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’, whereby direct myofascial release would involve direct, constant pressure that may cause pain for a brief period, while indirect myofascial release would involve much less pressure and be painless. The indirect release is thought to be effective by causing a slower, more gentle release, which may take longer but may also last longer in effectiveness. The debate between ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ myofascial release has yet to be won by either side.
What can be treated with myofascial release therapy?
Since fascia is throughout your body, releasing fascial tension can help a wide variety of complaints, which include but are not limited to:
- muscle pain
- joint pain
- neck pain
- back pain
- breathing difficulties
- poor posture
- athletic injury
- work injury
- repetitive strain
- stress and/or depression
What is a myofascial release treatment like?
As indicated above, how the treatment feels will largely depend on the type of myofascial release used by the practitioner you are seeing. Be sure to determine whether they use direct or indirect pressure (i.e. deep or light pressure), and for how long the treatment will last. Generally speaking, a massage therapist or a chiropractor will use direct myofascial release for a shorter period, whereas an energy-based physiotherapist or osteopath may use indirect myofascial release for a longer period of time.