Print this page

Myofascial Release

What is Fascia?

Fascia is a tough connective tissue which spreads throughout the body in a three dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. Fascia is composed of two types of fibers: A) Collagenous fibers which are very tough and have little stretchability; B) Elastic fibers which are stretchable. From the functional point of view, the body fascia may be regarded as a continuous laminated sheet of connective tissue that extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. It surrounds and invades every other tissue and organ of the body, including nerves, vessels, muscle and bone.

Fascia is denser in some areas than others. Dense fascia is easily recognizable (for example, the tough white membrane that we often find surrounding butchered meat). The majority of the fascia of the body is oriented vertically. There are, however, four major planes of fascia in the body that are oriented in more of a crosswise (or transverse) plane. These four transverse planes are extremely dense. They are called the pelvic diaphragm, respiratory diaphragm, thoracic inlet and cranial base. Frequently, all four of these transverse planes will become restricted when fascial adhesions occur in just about any part of the body. This is because fascia is all interconnected, and a restriction in one region can theoretically put a "drag" on the fascia in any other direction.

When Fascia is injured:

Trauma, posture or inflammation can create a binding down of fascia resulting in excessive pressure on nerves, muscles, blood vessels, osseous structures and/or organs. When fascia is injured, it scars and hardens in one area (following injury, inflammation, disease, surgery, etc.) and it can put tension on adjacent pain-sensitive structures in far-away areas. Some people have bizarre pain symptoms that appear to be unrelated to the original or primary complaint.

Treating Fascial Restrictions:

The John F. Barnes' Approach is considered to the ultimate mind/body therapy that is safe and consistently effective in producing results that last. A trained therapist has a thorough understanding of the fascial system and will "release" the fascia in areas that are known to have a strong "drag" on your area of injury. This is a whole body approach to treatment. Muscle provides the greatest bulk of our body's soft tissue. Because all muscle is enveloped by and ingrained with fascia, Myofascial Release is the term that has been given to the techniques that are used to relieve soft tissue from the abnormal grip of tight fascia. The type of MFR chosen by the therapist will depend upon where in your body the therapist finds the fascia restriction. Cross hand techniques with different variations of pressure, hand or leg pulls with stretching or continual pressure in areas for a length of time are common techniques.

Sometimes the key to the success of the treatment is to keep the pressure and stretch extremely mild. Muscle tissue responds to a relatively firm stretch, but this is not the case with fascia. The collagenous fibers of fascia are extremely tough and resistant to stretch. In fact it is estimated that fascia has a tensile strength of as much as 2000 lbs. per square inch! It has been shown that under a small amount of pressure, fascia will soften and begin to release when the pressure is sustained over time. Another important aspect of MFR is holding the technique long enough. MFR can be a gentle treatment. You may not initially feel any changes directly after the session but as time passes that day and the fascia continues to release, you may begin to feel the effects of the treatment.

In general, acute cases will resolve within a few treatments. The longer the problem has been present, generally the longer it will take to resolve the problem. To resolve these problems, more frequency between treatments is highly recommended. Frequently there is increased pain for several hours to a day after treatment, followed by remarkable improvement. Sometimes new pains in new areas will be experienced. Drinking a lot of fluid to flush your system is highly recommended. It is felt that release of light tissue is accompanied by release of trapped metabolic waste products in the surrounding tissue and blood stream.