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Myofascial Release - How Does It Work?

By Author: Duncan McGechie
Total Articles: 9

The vast majority of people, confronted with the words "myofascial release" would look at you in blank astonishment. This is because it is a medical term that is really only understood by medical practitioners, but it can be a very useful tool in dealing with pain of all sorts in the body.

It is a fact that you can have a pain in one part of your body which has nothing to do with that part but is a "reflection" of a pain somewhere else. To give a very simple example, you could have a pain in your lower back which is actually the result of a problem in your left shoulder. The problem in your left shoulder is called a "trigger point" because it triggers the pain in your lower back. According to the medical website WebMD (www.webmd.com) "Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a fancy way to describe muscle pain. It refers to pain and inflammation in the body's soft tissues."

"MPS is a chronic condition that affects the fascia (connective tissue that covers the muscles). It may involve either a single muscle or a muscle group. In some cases, the area where a person experiences the pain may not be where the myofascial pain generator is located. Experts believe that the actual site of the injury or the strain prompts the development of a trigger point that, in turn, causes pain in other areas. This situation is known as referred pain."

In order to understand about myofascial release we first need to understand what fascia is. Perhaps the simplest way of describing it is found on the website Deep Recovery (https://deeprecovery.com). It is described as follows: "Imagine a very strong dew-covered spider web encircling a shrub. And between the gaps in the threads is a clear gel, rather than air. If you can picture this, then you're on your way to understanding fascia. This three-dimensional complex matrix threads itself throughout our body, surrounding our muscles, organs, nerves, bones, blood vessels and even our cells. Everything is held together and in place by fascia. It is impressively flexible and infinitely adaptable."

Here is the problem: the fascia is very strong and connected. This means that when a particular spot in it gets injured or caught or pulled it can have effects which run through the body, which is why you have that pain in your lower back which is caused by the problem in your left shoulder. Deep Recovery describes it as follows: "Ever pull a thread on a sweater only to find the whole thing bunching up on one side? That bunching is exactly what happens to fascia when our bodies experience stress, whether it's dehydration, injury, inflammation, repetitive activity-you name it."

The body reacts to pain by trying to protect itself. You can have a small amount of tissue damage, which can be from a physical cause or even something like shock or depression, and pain signals are sent to the spinal cord which sends a message to the brain. In turn, this causes the muscles around the trigger point to contract in order to try and protect the tissues in the area. However, this restricts blood flow to the area and leads to more contraction of the surrounding muscles.

The aim of myofascial release is to ease those muscles which have now contracted into hard knots and thus end the pain. The therapist will use pressure on the body tissues in a certain direction and will continue to do this until the pressure slowly leads to a point of resistance. Here the therapist will maintain the pressure for 60 - 90 seconds which actually allows the tissue to relax, and lets the muscle stretch out again instead of remaining in a knot. This has proven to be a very effective way of releasing the pain.

The techniques involved in myofascial release were originally developed some 90 years ago by one Ida Rolf who described the therapy as structural integration, but it became known as Rolfing after her. Despite the odd-sounding name, the fact is that it works very well and is certainly worth trying for any type of muscular pain.


Acubody Therapies uses myofascial release in order to relieve referred pain in many of its' clients. It can work extremely well where other forms of treatment have failed.

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