What is Myofascial Release?
To understand Myofascial Release, you first need to understand fascia. Fascia is a tough connective tissue that spreads three-dimensionally throughout the body from head to foot, without interruption. It plays an important role in keeping us moving freely, without pain, and helps give structure and support to our soft tissue. Most importantly it acts like a fiber optic network, capable of sending information throughout the entire body instantaneously. This information helps our body respond to its environment accordingly; It even lets us know when we have been injured and when our body needs to be repaired. There has been a large amount of recent scientific research that is now verifying what John F. Barnes has been teaching for 40 years.
When we are injured, our fascia responds by binding down around the injured area, in order to protect it. After we heal, the fascia should return to its normal, healthy state: soft, flexible and capable of gliding along the surrounding soft tissue. Many times however, the fascia stays tight and dehydrated which in turn 'glues' itself to the surrounding muscle, bone, nerve or other soft tissue. This can create painful and restricted movement as well as seemingly unrelated symptoms like nerve pain and/or pain in other areas of the body. Fascial restrictions do not show up on medical tests such as MRI's and because of the confusing nature of the symptoms can be difficult to diagnose through traditional medical testing. Restrictions can also send the body into a flight or fight response, eliciting all the symptoms associated with it: anxiety, muscle tension, digestion issues and so on. Our pain frequently has an emotional component as well because fascia responds to emotional tension in the same way it does physical.
Myofascial Release is the technique used to help fascia return to its healthy state. Through a series of gentle, sustained holds, pressure is released from pain sensitives structures and flexibility is returned to the area. MFR is effective because of the pressure used and the length of the holds. If too much pressure is used too quickly, the fascia will simply bind down and not allow for any release- what it is made to do in order to protect the body! If the hold is not maintained for long enough, the fascia will not retain it's lengthened state- you may feel temporary relief but your pain will return fairly quickly. A properly trained therapist will be able to maintain appropriate pressure and length of time for an effective release. He or she will also be able to assess your specific areas of restriction and how to treat them safely based on your health history and wellness goals.