There are really 2 parts to this question. What is Myofascial release as a technique and what is Myofascial release as a theory.
As a theory it is reasonably easy to explain. Myofascial release is basically soft tissue massage that incorporates the muscles and the fascia. Myo is Latin for Muscle and fascia is the tissue that surrounds, entwines and supports the muscles, organs, nerves, bones and also blends to become ligaments and tendons. So by using the term myofascia we are taking into consideration that we are working on more than just the muscle tissueas well as being seen as a more holistic approach to the whole body.
Muscle is made up of collagen and elastin fibres and these fibres run in a particular pattern from origin to insertion (the attachments). Fascia is made up of collagen, elastin fibres and ground substance and generally wraps around the muscle tissue to spread the load and force as well as penetrating the muscle tissue and connecting it to the tendons ligaments, bones and organs. Ground substance has been shown to change its viscosity due to movement and temperature which can make it more flexible meaning it will slide and glide more easily amongst the muscle and fascia tissue. The acid known as Hyaluronic acid has also been shown to lubricate the fascial tissue and help it slide and glide around the muscle tissue. When there is a restriction in the fascia, say pain or “tightness”, myofascial release can help to get this moving again which will in turn release the pain.
As a technique myofascial release is varied from very gentle work do very vigorous and intense work. So when you see that a practitioner does "myofascial release" you may not always be getting what you are expecting. Having a chat with the practitioner beforehand can ensure that if you want a particular type of treatment then you will get it.
There are many approaches to Myofascial release or fascia work. Some of this work may include very gentle manipulations to the tissue such as in Bowen technique or the work of John Barnes where the work is more about the intention than deep releasing pressure. Other more “intense” versions of myofascial release can include Rolfing or fascial manipulation.
Rolfing was one of the original forms of fascia work. Created by Ida Rolf as far back as the 1930’s she had the idea that the body’s posture could be reorganised by releasing the fascia that was then restricting the muscle tissue, casuing pain and dysfunction. The idea with rolfing is that the Ground substance in the fascia can be changed from a hard substance into a more fluid and malleable substance through manipulation of the tissues. Rolfing techniues usually involve deep pressure and movement to release the fascia.
Thomas Myers has been a pioneer in bringing fascia work to the mainstream. His work progressed the Rolfing or Structural Integration idea using research and cadaver studies. In his book and course titled Anatomy Trains he brings together years of Cadaver studies into how the fascia connects throughout the body and especially how the muscles connect to each other. This gives a great model as to how tension or restrictions in one area of the body can be influencing an area further away that may seem irrelevant. By releasing these dysfunctions in the myofascia pain can be eliminated as well as improvements in posture which can then prevent the injuries from recurring.
The Stecco family are also known for their research and study into the fascial network and have developed their own brand of treatment technique called Fascial Manipulation which works to release restrictions in fascia to eliminate pain that may have been held for years by changing the ground substance and promoting the flow of hyaluronic acid in the tissues.
Robert Schleip is also one of the big wigs in fascial research. He is a well know Rolfer and researcher into fascia. His techniques and methodology are more gentle than many and he is also the creator of Fascial fitness which involves exercises to prevent fascial injuries and help "release" the fascia.
The interest in research into fascia has increased over the last 10 years or so with thousands of studies being published every year currently. Also every year the World fascia congress is being held where experts can share their research and knowledge and grow the understanding of this mysterious tissue.
After reading this you may be more confused than when you began as there are many approaches to "fascia work". Basically I wanted to give you the understanding that just because someone says they do Myofascial release it may not be what you are expecting.
In my opinion all massage, soft tissue work and stretching is myofascial release. The reason for this is that you can't isolate tissue when you are treating it or stretching it yourself. You can't say “I am just gong to work on muscles now and not the fascia” or vice versa “ I am just going to work on fascia without the muscles”. In our reductionist world we have tried to isolate our tissues - muscles, fascia, nerves, skin, etc. But the reality is that these are all connected together and have an influence on each other.
With all of the fascia research being undertaken these days muscles and nerves are often being left out of the equation. I feel that we need to keep an open mind to the fact that the body is an extremely complicated organism and our understanding of it is changing all the time. Things we hold dear and believe today can easily change tomorrow. When we cling to beliefs then we are becoming more religious and less scientific in our approach to the body and pain. There is definately a neuromuscular aspect to soft tissue work which can tell the nervous system to release tissues or turn off pain. In the years to come we will hopefully have a better understanding of this connection.
At Muscle Therapy Australia we are well versed in Myofascial release and the fascial system. Garry Luke has been practices the Thomas Myers Anatomy Trains method as well as structural integration methods. Richard Goncalves practices the Stecco Fascial Manipulation model.
By integrating the fascia model we can more effectively treat your pain and dysfunction that may have been affecting your life for many years.
Book now to see how myofascial work can help you.
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