What IS Myofascial Release?

By Mary Hughes PT, DPT

Understanding Myofascial Release (MFR)
Myofascial Release (MFR) is a holistic, therapeutic approach to manual therapy, John Barnes PT, LMT, NCTMB, is credited to the development of Myofascial Release (1). MFR offers a comprehensive approach for the evaluation and treatment of the myofascial system, the system of tissues and muscles in the body.

This technique is designed to release restrictions such as trigger points, muscle tightness, and dysfunctions in soft tissue that may cause pain and limit motion in all parts of the body. It has shown success in decreasing pain and increasing mobility (1).

The main tissue that MFR focuses on for release in the myofascial system is the fascia. Fascia is a fine tissue that surrounds all structures in the body including muscles, nerves, vessels, organs and bones. MFR allows the therapist to evaluate, identify, and treat fascial restrictions. These restrictions can be caused by numerous factors, such as trauma, musculoskeletal conditions, repetitive stress syndrome, and poor posture.

By applying gentle, hands-on techniques to the whole body, positive structural changes may occur, such as increased range of motion, decreased pain, and, most importantly, increased fascial mobility (2). In combination with traditional physical therapy, MFR can help patients return to their daily and recreational activities.

Who Might Benefit from MFR
MFR can be used to treat pain and increase mobility in patients with a wide range of conditions, including back, neck, shoulder, hip and pelvic pain, and fibromyalgia.

Athletes can also benefit. A number of sports injuries can be treated with MFR, including:

  • Repetitive strain injuries, often seen in long distance runners

  • Muscular imbalances, which lead to overuse in isolated joints and faulty movement patterns (3)

There are also increasing numbers of athletes who have found MFR to be helpful in regaining proper pelvic alignment, which in turn leads to optimal competitive performance (4).

Contraindications
MFR may not be appropriate for all patients. Contraindications for MFR include – but are not limited to – those with malignancy, aneurysm, acute rheumatoid arthritis, advanced diabetes, severe osteoporosis, and healing fractures (2). Your physician and physical therapist can help determine whether or not MFR is an appropriate course of treatment for you.

What to Expect
During your first appointment the therapist will perform an initial evaluation, a comprehensive systems review, and musculoskeletal physical exam to ensure that MFR is appropriate for you. Evaluations include a postural assessment and strength and range of motion testing.

During your first MFR treatment, it is common for the therapist to position you on your back on a treatment table to allow your body and mind to relax. The majority of MFR work consists of gentle pressure. Sometimes the motion is very fluid, and at other times your limbs may be held in a light stretch. The therapist may begin on the area in which you are currently experiencing pain. However, that is not always the case, as pain can often be referred from different parts of the body.

You may experience some slight discomfort as your tissues release tension. While many patients leave a MFR session feeling very relaxed, it’s not uncommon for there to be some residual muscle soreness. The soreness is “thought to result from postural and alignment changes or from the techniques themselves.”1

Over time, your therapist will show you how to practice MFR techniques yourself at home, using foam rollers, a tennis or Myo-Release Ball™, and/or massage sticks.

For more information on MFR you can access John Barnes’ Website at: http://myofascialrelease.com/

References

1. Dutton, Mark. Orthopaedic examination, evaluation, & intervention. New York : McGraw-Hill, c2004 pages 331-332, 1218

2. John Barnes’ Courses completed MFR I, MFR 2, Myofascial Unwinding, Myofascial Soft Tissue Mobilization workshop.

3. Taylor, D. Dealing with Muscular Imbalances around the Lumbo-Pelvic-Hip-Joint Retrieved January 22, 2012 from Athlete Acceleration.com URL:http://www.athletesacceleration.com/hipmuscularimabalances.html

4. Leigh, J. How Myofascial Release can help athletes achieve optimum performance Retrieved January 22, 2012 for source website URL:

http://www.memphismfr.com/MemphisMFR/_pdf/How%20MFR%20Can%20Help%20Improve%20Athletic%20Performance.pdf

 

 

Could a Massage a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

By Riva Preil

Who doesn’t loooooooove a good massage?  Not only does one feel more relaxed afterwards, but the release of “knots” and trigger points allow the muscles to achieve a better resting tone.  But could there be more involved in the process? Get excited, because…science may be on the cusp of discovering that massage actually creates a positive physiological response in our bodies!

Scientists have been studying the neuronal pathways associated with pain and pressure for many years.  Mechanoreceptors in our skin are primary neurons that respond to mechanical stimuli, and they send messages throughout our body by sending action potentials.  The four types of mechanoreceptors, Pacinian corpusclesMeissner’s corpusclesMerkel’s discs, and Ruffini endings respond to mechanical pressure and distortion.  Scientists have identified that C-fibers transmit the message of pain to the brain.  However, there has been limited research to date regarding how our nervous system responds to pleasant touch.  Dr. David J. Anderson at the California Institute of Technology has recently pioneered research in this direction.  He and his team have identified a unique type of sensory neuron in mice, MRGPRB4, which transmits messages to the brain in response to pleasurable stroking touch.  The receptors of these neurons are located in hairy skin, and they were activated by massage-like stroking as opposed to pinching.  What this means is that the mice physiologically respond well and feel good when stimulated in a positive, pleasant manner. Scientists have yet to perform research in this area with humans- do we also have MRGPRB4 neurons?  Do we too respond in a similar manner to pleasant touch?  Time will tell…

Love Your Colon: Part I

By Riva Preil

Anyone who has ever experienced constipation knows how uncomfortable this condition can be.  It is important to eat adequate fiber (please refer to previous blogs for details), drinking eight cups of water each day, and participate in exercise regularly.

It is also important to consider the anatomy involved with normal defecation.  The large intestine, also referred to as the colon, is one of the final legs of gastrointestinal trip.  Think of the colon as an upside down “U” consisting of three parts: the ascending colon, the transverse colon, and the descending colon (refer to picture).  Normally, the stool passes from the small intestine to the large intestine, where it travels through all three portions of the colon, from ascending to transverse to descending colon.  Once the stool completes its passage through the descending colon, it stores in the rectum until the rectum “feels full”, at which point in time the individual can pass a bowel movement through the anus.  The colon is a one-way street, so to speak, and the stool (especially if hard and firmly formed) may require assistance being transported through the three portions of the colon.  The “ILU (or I Love You) Massage,” is a self-help technique that many find beneficial in treating constipation.  Why is it called the I Love You massage?  How do I perform this technique?  Stay tuned to the next blog for the answers to these questions…