What is Myofascial Release?

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Myofascial release is a form of soft tissue therapy used to treat somatic dysfunction and accompanying pain and restriction of motion. This is accomplished by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation, increasing venous and lymphatic drainage, and stimulating the stretch reflex of muscles and overlying fascia [1].

Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the human body, including muscle. This soft tissue can become restricted due to psychogenic disease, overuse, trauma, infectious agents, or inactivity, often resulting in pain, muscle tension, and corresponding diminished blood flow. Although fascia and its corresponding muscle are the main targets of myofascial release, other tissue may be affect as well, including other connective tissue [1].

As in most tissue, irritation of fascia or muscle causes local inflammation. Chronic inflammation results in fibrosis, or thickening of the connective tissue, and this thickening causes pain and irritation, resulting in reflexive muscle tension that causes more inflammation. In this way, the cycle creates a positive feedback loop and can result in ischemia and somatic dysfunction even in the absence of the original offending agent. Myofascial techniques aim to break this cycle through a variety of methods acting on multiple stages of the cycle [1].

There are two methods for mobilizing the fascia, direct and indirect.  Direct myofascial release seeks for changes in the myofascial structures by stretching, elongation of fascia, or mobilizing adhesive tissues. The skilled practitioner applies sustained light pressure and moves slowly through the layers of the fascia until the deep tissues are reached.

The indirect method involves a gentle stretch, with only a few grams of pressure, which allows the fascia to ‘unwind’ itself. The gentle traction applied to the restricted fascia will result in heat and increased blood flow in the area. This allows the body’s inherent ability for self correction to return, thus eliminating pain and restoring the optimum performance of the body.

References

  1. ^ a b c DiGiovanna, Eileen; Stanley Schiowitz, Dennis J. Dowling (2005) [1991]. “Myofascial (Soft Tissue) Techniques (Chapter 12)”. An Osteopathic Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment (Third ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 80-82. 
  • Barnes, John F. 1990. Myofascial Release: The Search for Excellence, 10th Edition. Rehabilitation Services Inc.
  • Cantu, Robert I. & Grodin, Alan J. 2001. Myofascial Manipulation, Theory and Clinical Application, 2nd ed. Aspen Publishers Inc.
  • Manheim, Carol. 2001. The Myofascial Release Manual. 3rd Edition. Slack Inc.
  • Myers, Tom. 2004. Structural Integration – developments in Ida Rolf’s ‘Recipe’- 1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 8, 131-142.
  • Stanborough, Michael. 2004. Direct Release Myofascial Technique. Elsevier.
  • Ward, Robert C. 2003, Integrated Neuromusculoskeletal Release and Myofascial Release, in Ward RC, 2003, Foundations for Osteopathic Medicine, 2nd edition, Chapter 60, pp 932–968, Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, Philadelphia