Myofascial Release Technique Explained
Myofascial release treatment (MRT) is used to break up scar tissue that exists in muscle tissue, tendons, and between muscles, fascia, and nerves. Injuries throughout one’s life to muscle and underlying tissues result in scar tissue. Our bodies also adapt to our unique body mechanics by adapting the body’s fascia, which acts as an exoskeleton of sorts and guides how muscles move. There is now evidence that suggests that fascia is part of a larger system that integrates with the nervous system and may even affect how the organs in your bodywork.
Enhancing the way you move
Muscles, fascia, and nerves can eventually adhere to each other (develop adhesions) instead of gliding independently of each other. The combination of adhesions and scar tissue causes pain and stiffness and affects the way we move. Over time, nerve roots may also become adhered (stuck) to the other involved soft tissue structures causing more pain, numbness, and loss of joint and muscle function. Patients who are helped by MRT have often tried heat, medication, surgery (e.g. Carpal Tunnel), massage, and manipulation with the problem always returning. MRT is very effective at providing good long-term results with these types of patients. MRT removes the scar tissue in muscles by stripping it away from the involved muscle spindles, allowing the muscle to resume its normal length. MRT can also remove scar tissue where muscles insert into bone, from tendons, between muscles (adhesions), and between muscles and nerve roots.
When the scar tissue is literally stripped away, normal function returns, long term pain is resolved and the doctor’s exercises can now help to restore normal function to the involved structures.
When performed, MRT is extremely effective. MRT is done to tolerance and you should tell the doctor if his contact becomes uncomfortable. The doctor will either actively or passively have you move the area being treated. The harder you work at this while the doctor applies therapeutic pressure, the more effective the therapy will be, and the quicker you will respond to the therapy.
You may experience soreness for a day or two after treating an area that is common.
The practice of myofascial release is now being combined with active functional evaluation since myofascial release alone can be effective, however, unless the problem is properly understood and diagnosed, may only have a temporary effect. The old idea of different parts of the body malfunctioning leading to injury has often failed to offer long term improvement of many common conditions such as back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, knee pain, and even problems in the feet and ankles.
Most physicians still see the body this way and they often recommend therapies that work on the body part, rather than the mechanism of the problem, resulting in failed rehabilitation attempts and approaches that may even aggravate the painful problem. This is perhaps why many sports chiropractors are moving to active evaluation and treat – test – treat protocols while taking a more holistic approach to why we hurt. It is not enough to just strip away adhesions, since, treating the wrong area for the wrong reason will result in the area tightening again and again.
If areas are fibrous, sometimes the area is released more effectively using instruments such as Graston Technique tools since releasing these areas by hand only often is less efficient and often less effective. Chronic adhesion and tightness can quickly improve using these instruments, which is often referred to as IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue treatment).
The combined usage of IASTM and MRT is the ideal combination combined with an active evaluation to resolve most painful conditions. From a pain management perspective, if used properly, these methods not only improve function but often, resolve the painful mechanism behind why you hurt. Most patients not only want relief, but they also want to have their problems resolved, rather than managed.
Our unique approach to pain management using myofascial release treatment includes
A comprehensive active evaluation of your problem and the mechanisms behind why you are in pain, often called a holistic approach since we look at you, not just your symptoms. Often, we find that past problems in other parts of the body and the current problem are related. Often, by approaching the body holistically, not only do we resolve the main complaint that brought you to our office in the first place, but we resolve the mechanism behind past and even potential problems that may not be painful yet.
Treat – test – treat protocols designed to evaluate the before and after effects of our day’s treatment. This assures consistency and efficiency in our approach and better results than is often achieved with standard rehabilitation protocols. This personalizes the care to you and since we are all unique, this approach addresses what is unique about why you hurt.
Manipulation of the spine and extremities – Chiropractors are known for their work with manipulation, and they are the most highly skilled professionals performing these methods today. Using myofascial release is very effective however if the joints being affected by the tight fascia are not moving properly, the fascia will again tighten. Manipulation improves movement which is essential to improving how we move, feel, and function.
Foot orthotics if necessary – often many of us are tight because of how we adapt to asymmetrical body mechanics. In the book Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain, it explains the idea of changing the rules of the game. If you are built asymmetrically or have inefficient body mechanics, it is likely you will experience pain from the way we adapt, including a lack of tightness resulting for the myofascia. Sometimes, foot orthotics will allow us to markedly improve the way you adapt and change the inevitable future of pain that many of our parents or grandparents may have suffered from since these body mechanics are inherited traits.
Exercises – Corrective exercises can change the way our bodies function and are often essential to resolving many painful conditions. If recommended appropriately and done properly, the exercises can help us markedly improve the way we function and feel.
Myofascial release has been practiced by many different types of providers and is quite effective. There are many styles of MRT such as Active Release Techniques (R), Barnes, and Fascial Manipulation as being taught by Hammer, Rolfing, and Stecco, to name a few methods that are well established. We were originally trained in Active Release Techniques in the 1990s by Michael Leahy DC, CCSP who developed the method.
Getting great results with myofascial release takes more than just performing a release on a tissue, it requires the practitioner to be able to understand why we are tight, why we are in pain and how to change the patterns of adaptation to resolve or markedly improve the condition. Management of the condition using myofascial release is more important than the technique itself, since myofascial release as a tool can be quite effective, but used improperly, may not achieve the results that are possible.