What is Myofascial Release in Massage Therapy?

October 4, 2008 | 0 Comments

Myofascial release is a highly specialized stretching method utilized by massage therapists to treat patients with various soft tissue disorders.

To know what myofascial release is and why it works so well, one must know something about fascia. Fascia refers to the thin layer of connective tissue that covers all organs of the body. This tissue covers every muscle bundle as well as every muscle fiber inside each bundle. All muscle stretching really is stretching of the fascia and the muscle, collectively known as the myofascial unit. When a person injures his muscle, the fibers and the surrounding fascia become short and tight; i.e. muscle spasm. This imbalance of stress can radiate through the fascia and ultimately to other parts of the body, thus promoting pain and various other symptoms in places you normally would not expect. Myofascial release addresses these symptoms by releasing the uneven tightness in the injured fascia.

To put it in other words, myofascial release is the stretching of the fascia. The stretch is guided by the feedback that the massage therapist gets from the patient’s body. The therapist can gauge how much force to use, the direction of force and for how long to maintain that force. Small areas of muscle are stretched at any one time. Occasionally, the massage therapist uses only two of his/her fingers to stretch that part of a muscle. The feedback that the therapist receives from the patient allows him/her to determine which muscles are stretched and in what particular order.

The same components are used when a therapist utilizes myofascial release. First, the therapist locates the area of tightness. Then a light stretch is applied to the area of tightness. When the tissue begins to relax, the massage therapist then applies greater force to increase the stretch. This process is repeated until the entire muscle is fully relaxed. Then, the therapist addresses another area to be stretched.

The massage therapist will be able to locate sore spots just by light palpation. Many times, patients are unable to show the therapist where the sore spots are or have grown accustomed to them until the massage therapist palpates them. These myofascial trigger points as they are called will disappear with treatment.

Many patients are amazed at how gentle myofascial release really is. Some of them doze off during a massage therapy session. Others go home and take a nap. Most patients find that myofascial release can be a very relaxing form of massage therapy.

Keep in mind that myofascial release is not massage therapy entirely. Myofascial release is only one of many techniques used in massage therapy to equalize muscle tension throughout the body. Uneven muscle tension can put pressure on the nerves and muscles and promote pain. Progress is determined by an improvement in overall posture and the decrease in the patient’s pain.

Micaela Romualdez is a freelance article writer for DFWChiroMassage. She enjoys writing on topics such as chiropractic healing, rolfing, massage therapy benefits, homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, nutrition, and other types of alternative health care.

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