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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.
Myofascial release is a hands-on, whole body approach for the evaluation and treatment of the human structure. Its focus is on the fascial system. Physical trauma, inflammatory or infectious responses, postural or structural imbalances may all cause inappropriate strains on this system.
What is the fascial system? Fascia is a tough connective tissue that spreads throughout the body in a three dimensional web from head to foot functionally without interruption. Fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, blood vessel, nerve, internal organ, and right to the deepest layer surrounding the brain and spinal cord right down to the cellular level. Fascia is comprised of collagen, elastin, and surrounded with a gel like compound. These components form a three-dimensional, interdependent system of strength, support, elasticity, and cushion for our body. We are taught to think that the spine is what holds us up, when in fact it is the fascial system that does this. If you think about a pup-tent, it is not the poles (the spine) that hold up the tent, it is the wires (the fascial system) that holds it up. Should one of the wires get too tight, or too loose, the tent will lean to one side and misshapen or even fall over. Our body works in this same fashion. The fascial system allows for proper functional, biomechanical movement and support and balance of the body, assists in nutritional and detoxification cellular processes, thermoregulation (maintenance of proper body temperature), proper fluid flow (blood and lymphatic fluid), and assists in the healing process through the laying down of scar tissue. Trauma or fascial restrictions can set up the environment for poor cellular function, disease, pain, and dysfunction throughout the entire body, sometimes with bizarre side effects and seemingly unrelated symptoms.
Fascial strains from physical trauma can slowly tighten down causing the body to readapt into a new position against gravity, therefore causing an inefficient and inflexible system setting the body up for further trauma, pain, and limitation of movement. Over time, this pulling effect acts like a run in a stocking or sweater throughout the body, thus explaining why sometimes the symptoms may lie quite a distance away from the original problem. An example of this may be someone with a lower back injury many years ago, and is now seeking treatment for tension headaches, neck pain or jaw problems.
Treatment starts with a thorough history; including any health related issues, present and past, a history of traumatic events or surgeries, previous treatment modalities and responses, lifestyle, and other health related issues. Treatment consists of a postural and structural evaluation, examination of range of motion restriction, muscle tightness and any fascial restrictions that are present. Once the restrictions are located, a gentle but firm pressure is applied in the direction of the restriction. A gentle sustained pressure is held until the release is felt. This motion is followed in the direction of the restriction from one barrier to the next. The goal is to remove these restrictions and restore the body’s equilibrium and balance against gravity. When this has been accomplished, this allows for the body’s inherent ability to self-correct. This then will reduce or eliminate pain, and restore optimum function and performance with the least amount of energy expenditure.
Myofascial Release has benefit in managing acute and chronic pain, neurological and structural problems, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, lower back and neck pain, trauma recovery, birth trauma (mom and baby), pelvic and menstrual problems, headaches, TMJ (jaw) dysfunction, pediatric and geriatric conditions, sports injuries, reoccurring injuries, and restriction of motion or just wanting to increase performance.
Myofascial Release alters the whole fascial system therefore changing the body’s position in space. As previously mentioned, this change occurs right down to the cellular level. The facilitation of change also allows for the emergence of emotional holding patterns and belief systems that exist that can hinder or impede recovery. The combination of Myofascial Release, Myofascial Unwinding, and Cranio-Sacral Therapy taps into the mind-body connection treating the whole person physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
The fascial system has been referred to as the container of the mind. This tissue has the ability to store memory of past trauma, whether physical or emotional resulting in the tissue tightening down to try and protect the individual from it happening again. This will result in the same pain patterns happening over and over again, and the patient wondering why they are not getting better. An example of this would be, say someone was in a car accident, they walked away and thought that they were ok. Later on, they develop physical symptoms that are not linked to any acute injury, and they are not aware of what may be responsible for their condition. Through the memory of the mind-body complex, this individual has been bracing against getting hit again just like in the accident. The body has set up a protective mechanism so that it doesn’t happen again, thus compressing the body’s structures and creating symptoms.
Through Myofascial Release, the therapist can take the patient back into the traumatic event, allowing them to relive it, and ultimately change the holding pattern that they are bracing against. This can then allow the patient to release the emotions associated with the trauma, as well as change their sub-conscious belief system that was established at the time of the event. As these releases take place, the patient can then let go of the past trauma that has been holding them back, allowing them to move forward in their healing journey to a pain free active lifestyle.
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Articles: Massage Therapy