The holiday season is a very busy time. We hustle and bustle to buy gifts, bake special goodies, attend parties and visit family and friends. As a result, our bodies might start to let us know that we are getting tense and overworked. What can we do to help reduce this tension and possible pain?
Myfascial release (MFR) is a soft tissue therapy that can reduce or eliminate tension and pain. Myo means muscle. Fascial means fascia. To understand what myofascial release is and how it works, it is important to consider the anatomy of the human body.
The support structure of the human body is a complex interconnected collection of bones, muscles, tendons, and soft tissue. The structures under the skin, when working properly and in synchrony and equilibrium, move us from one point to another, allow us to function in the course of our day and then rest so that we can get a peaceful night’s sleep. Stress, injury, trauma and other such events can disrupt this synchrony and equilibrium. As a result, we develop pain and dysfunction.
Myofascial release is a method of treatment and care that restores the body’s equilibrium and returns a person to painfree function.
Every muscle of the body is surrounded by a smooth fascial sheath. Fascia is a tough connective tissue that spreads throughout the body in a 3-dimensional web from head to foot, functionally without interruption. It is suggested that if every structure of the body were taken out except the fascia, the body would retain its shape.
Think of the fascia as one big sweater woven around every part of the body. Fascia permits the body to retain its normal shape and in so doing, maintains the organs in their correct positions. It allows the body to resist mechanical stresses both internally and externally. Fascia covers our muscles, bones, nerves, organs and vessels. Poor posture, trauma, and inflammation can cause the fascial system to bind down. When the fascia is restricted, we experience pain and limitation in movement.
Myofascial release is a hands-on method of treatment. The therapist applies a three-dimensional sustained pressure and movement deep into the body’s tissues. The therapist pauses while his or her hands are providing this pressure, allowing the therapist to determine where the restriction is located. You may feel a strong pulling feeling, or perhaps discomfort. When the tissue is very restricted, you may even experience some pain. This is called “therapeutic pain” and gives information to the therapist that this is indeed the area that needs the attention.
Myofascial release is not the same as massage. Myofascial release is focused specifically on the tissues that are restricted. The therapist may keep his or her hands on one area for up to 3 to 5 minutes at a time, applying a force deep into the tissues, then slowly moving from one part of the body to the other. The therapist may ask questions about what you are feeling as the pressure is applied. The response is often a feeling of that part becoming longer, more relaxed, and/or becoming lighter. One goal of myofascial release is to improve blood flow to the area that is restricted. This increase in blood flow nourishes the tissues and clears away waste byproducts. This in turn allows release of tension and pain. The therapist will also teach you how to do your own myofascial release. Rolling pins, a firm ball, long dowels and other types of objects that can be pressed or rolled along the body serve to provide myofascial release. We have in our own hands the ability to untie the knots that can develop in our busy days.
If the holiday season is getting you tied up in knots, myofascial release may be an effective approach to untie those knots!