Myofascial release is a non-invasive alternative therapy used to treat various types of chronic pain. This type of therapy is similar to massage and is designed to relieve pain by loosening the membranes that wrap and connect the muscles. Myofascial release can often reduce pain even when other methods of pain relief have not been effective.
How it Works
Myofascial release operates under the assumption that the tough tissue known as “fascia”, which covers all muscles in the body, is sometimes responsible for the development of chronic pain. This occurs when the fascia become tight and contracted over time, which leads to reduced range of motion and discomfort. By releasing the tension and loosening the fascia, the therapist can relieve chronic pain in affected areas. Myofascial release may also restore motion to areas where movement is restricted.
Types of Myofascial Release
There are two primary types of myofascial release: indirect myofascial release and direct myofascial release. The type of therapy chosen depends on the condition and preference of the patient, as well as the therapist’s discretion.
Indirect Myofascial Release
Indirect myofascial release is the gentlest form of myofascial release available. When performing this type of therapy, the therapists lightly stretches the contracted fascia using only a small amount of pressure. Each stretch continues until a barrier or restriction is reached. The therapist then holds the stretch with a relaxed hand for several minutes until he or she feels heat and/or sensations of release. Therapists practicing this form of myofascial release follow the “path of least resistance” in order to prevent discomfort as much as possible.
Direct Myofascial Release
Direct myofascial release involves a stronger, deeper contact with the fascia than indirect myofascial release. During this type of therapy, which is similar to deep tissue massage, the therapist puts direct pressure on the fascia using a closed fist, elbow or instrument designed for massage. The therapist pushes hard enough to sink into the soft tissue beneath the fascia and then drags the fascia across the soft tissue’s surface.
Tips for Patients
Because it involves hands-on manipulation of the muscle and fascia, myofascial release may be uncomfortable at times. Direct myofascial release tends to be more uncomfortable than indirect myofascial release. Although myofascial release my produce immediate results in some cases, many patients require several sessions before noticeable pain relief and increased motion are apparent.
Myofascial release will be most effective when patients take on an active role in their treatment. Patients are encouraged to engage in regular physical activity between therapy sessions. In many cases, patients will also be taught techniques they can perform on themselves at home in order to maximize results. Patients are also encouraged to participate in as many sessions as the therapist recommends until desired pain relief is achieved. Myofascial release is sometimes used in combination with other types of therapy.