The term myofascial release is derived from the Latin words myo (or muscle) and fascia (or elastic band). Its no wonder many therapists liken the stretching of muscles and ligaments to the stretching of an elastic band.
Myofascial release is a type of physiotherapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. The pain usually originates from specific points within your myofascial tissues called “trigger points”.
Myofascial release focuses on reducing pain by easing the tension and tightness in the trigger points. It’s not always easy to understand what trigger point is responsible for the pain. Localizing pain to a specific trigger point is very difficult. For that reason, myofascial release is often used over a broad area of muscle and tissue rather than at single points.
In practice, Myofascial Release is a gentle therapy, consisting of a mixture of light stretching and massage work. During a session, the therapist will apply hands-on massage strokes in order to release tension from the fibrous bands of the muscles, bones, nerves and joints, by unblocking any scar tissue or adhesions due to injury in the muscles and surrounding tissues.
Your therapist will gently massage the myofascia and feel for stiff or tightened areas. Normal myofascia should feel pliable and elastic. The therapist will begin massaging and stretching the areas that feel rigid with light manual pressure. The therapist then aids the tissue and supportive sheath in releasing pressure and tightness. The process is repeated multiple times on the same trigger point, and on other trigger points, until the therapist feels the tension is fully released.
These areas where the therapist is working may not be near where the pain originates or where you feel the pain most prominently. Myofascial release works the broader network of muscles that might be causing your pain. It tries to reduce tension throughout your body by releasing trigger points across a broad section of your muscular system.
Myofascial release therapy is applied hands-on, in kneading-style strokes that are meant to stretch, loosen, soften and lengthen muscle tissues. The strokes are applied with gentle pressure, and held for approximately 2-mintues in order for the stretch to have its full effect on the muscle. Typically the same stretch is performed more than once by the therapist until the muscle is totally relaxed and a release is felt. The therapist will always apply massage in the direction of the muscle fibers to encourage the full range of motion of the muscle.
The therapist will often use light to moderate traction and twisting strokes to apply the appropriate tension on the soft tissue, and to achieve a full reflex range of the muscle. This slow and subtle technique can be used to unblock fascia and muscle throughout the body restoring total physical harmony.
Myofascial release is a safe therapy that can be used as a preventative method or to promote the healing of an injured, stiff or painful muscle. However, this therapy has also been affective in treating patients with sloppy posture, chronic fatigue, severe tension and anxiety, as well as repetitive stress injuries of the muscular-skeletal system.
Soft tissue release is a form of bodywork designed specifically around the area of neuromuscular therapy. This type of therapy focuses on increasing recovery rates of muscular injuries, fixing muscular imbalances, and relieving chronic pain. Soft tissue release is a popular form of therapy among athletes as it is a quick and effective way of achieving strength and flexibility after muscular injuries.
The basic idea behind this approach is to apply pressure to the muscles while it is being stretched. This integrated movement technique helps to correct muscular imbalances, including areas that have been injured or have scar tissue. It’s important to remember that this therapy allows you to communicate with your nervous system- it’s not just a manipulation of tissue. The application of rhythmic pressure during a stretching routine is communicating to the nervous system the re-programming of the muscles. This eliminates the old muscle memory of how your nervous system thinks your muscles should normally be like, which is why pain persists. When trauma occurs to muscle tissue, the affected area becomes inflamed. But once the muscle memory is evoked during Soft Tissue Release, the muscles are encouraged to return to their normal state and the inflammation decreases.
Even though it may sound painful, soft tissue release does not put the body through any more pain than it is already experiencing. However, the patient does not just lie still either as you would during a relaxation massage. It is expected that the patient will maintain an active role throughout the therapy session. This is required for the special movements and stretches to be effective. At the end of the session, you will also be taught how to perform some of the exercises and stretches by yourself at home, which is important to maintain the recovery progress. You do not need to undress completely, but less clothing and stretchable fabric is easiest to move around in during the procedure.