As I recently searched through the latest local deals I saw one that had a familiar ring -myofascial release. I'd heard a friend in my local Fibromyalgia support group talking about how myofascial release had helped her and this deal was for the same guy that she used, so I couldn't pass it up.
As soon as I met Tim I knew I'd made a new friend, and after just one visit with him I knew I had my new favorite treatment. Not every treatment has left me in less pain than I arrived, but that was simply a matter of him learning my body. And, once you understand what myofascial release is that really makes sense.
What is fascia?
To understand myofascial release, you first have to understand the fascia. Fascia is a thin fiber that winds together creating a protective sheath that covers every organ and bone in the body. To give you a visual, some describe this fiber as similar in consistency to cotton candy or spider webs. When you have surgery or get hurt it's within this fiber that scar tissue is created.
Scar tissue can create much bigger issues than just a small knot at an incision site. Often, scar tissue isn't visible; for instance, if you pull or sprain your knee, your fascia can get twisted creating scar tissue. Because the fascia throughout your body is connected, a pull on one area of the fascia creates a pull throughout the body. Therefore, that simple knee sprain could eventually cause back and neck pain as the fascia is pulled from one end of the body to the other.
This is where myofascial release comes in. This bodywork helps release these knots or pulls in the fascia, and can dramatically reduce pain as well as improve other issues.
What is myofascial release?
While myofascial release is often performed by the same people who do massage, it's actually quite different. A masseuse might encounter tight fascia during a massage and simply take a moment to release that tissue. Occasionally, however, you will find someone who specializes in myofascial release as I did, and they will spend an entire session working only on the fascia.
Myofascial release work begins with finding the areas of tight fascia. They will likely first ask you about the areas that are hurting, then starting with those areas they will feel the fascia and find the areas that feel overly tight. These may feel like hard ribbons of tissue. They will then follow that tissue to the origin and work from there to release it.
Releasing the fascia involves applying direct pressure to an area, typically using a thumb or a couple of fingers. The pressure is firmly applied and held until the fascia loosens. This loosening often feels like an unwinding. The Therapist will feel this unwinding and often so will you. Sometimes, the fascia will release in one area only to move to another. When this happens, the therapist will follow the tightness continuing to work until it has been released.
The pressure that is applied can be painful, and there are times I want to tell him to stop, that I can't take anymore. But, then I'll feel the release and the pain dramatically decreases.
While myofascial release sometimes hurts as the pressure is being applied, I do typically feel better when I leave than when I arrived. I've only left feeling worse a few times, and that was simply because it took a little time to learn how my body responds to pressure.
As with massage, it's important to drink a lot of water after you leave a myofascial release session. This helps the body excrete the toxins that have been loosened during the. You may also want to apply moist heat to help the muscles and tissues continue to relax.
Myofascial release therapy isn't massage, although it's often confused for massage. Myofascial release therapy cannot only help reduce pain but can alleviate the cause of the pain, in time allowing you to return to normal functioning.