Fascia and Myofascial Release-
by- Alexandra Sarkuni
Massage therapists around the world practice a variety of techniques, some of them rooted within alternative medicine. Myofascial release, or MFR, is a type of osteopathic therapy that alleges to treat pain and restore skeletal muscle mobility. It achieves this by improving blood and lymphatic circulation, stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles, and relaxing contracted muscles. This is achieved through manipulation of fascia, an elastic, tough, and thin type of fibrous tissue that sheathes muscles and other structures within the human body.
“Myofascial release” as a phrase was coined by an osteopath named Robert Ward in the 1960s. Ward partnered with physical therapist John Barnes to spread this new therapy. The techniques were popularized the teachings of Andrew Taylor Still, and remain relevant in massage centers today.
Myofascial pain has two basic causes. Fascia can tighten over bones, muscles, and organs, binding them down and restricting the space they need to function. It can also become damaged itself, resulting in contracted muscular tissue and unprotected skeletal structures. Either of these two cases causes restricted blood flow to the afflicted areas, impairing healing and causing pain. Osteopathic theory posits that trauma, strain, infections, lethargy, or psychogenic disease can restrict the soft tissues of the body’s fascia, resulting in restricted blood flow, pain, and muscle tension.
Massage therapists apply myofascial release therapies to stretch and relax the fascia. These techniques intend to improve blood flow to the affected areas and loosen the fascia’s grip on bones and muscles. This is achieved through gentle, sustained pressure in specific areas, which is why it may also be referred to as myofascial trigger-point therapy.