What is Myofascial Release or MFR?
Myofascial Release is a relatively new addition to the physiotherapy profession. Because it is somewhat different from traditional physical therapy, many patients ask questions such as “What is it?” and “How does it work?” Myofascial Release is generally an extremely mild and gentle form of stretching that has a profound effect upon the body tissues. Because of its gentleness, many individuals wonder how it could possibly work. We hope you will find this information helpful in order to understand what MFR is all about.
Fascia (also called connective tissue) is a tissue system of the body to which relatively little attention has been given in the past. Fascia is composed of two types of fibers: A) Collagenous fibers which are very tough and have little stretchability; B) Elastic fibers which are stretchable. From the functional point of view, the body fascia may be regarded as a continuous laminated sheet of connective tissue that extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes. It surrounds and invades every other tissue and organ of the body, including nerves, vessels, muscle and bone. Fascia is more dense in some areas than others. Dense fascia is easily recognizable (for example, the tough white membrane that we often find surrounding butchered meat).
WHEN FASCIA IS INJURED
Because fascia permeates all regions of the body and is all interconnected, when it scars and hardens in one area (following injury, inflammation, disease, surgery, etc.), it can put tension on adjacent pain-sensitive structures as well as on structures in far-away areas. Some patients have bizarre pain symptoms that appear to be unrelated to the original or primary complaint. These bizarre symptoms can now often be understood in relationship to our understanding of the fascial system
TREATING FASCIAL RESTRICTIONS
A key to the success of myofascial release treatments is to keep the pressure and stretch extremely mild. Muscle tissue responds to a relatively firm stretch, but this is not the case with fascia. Remember the collagenous fibers of fascia are extremely tough and resistant to stretch. In fact, it is estimated that fascia has a tensile strength of as much as 2000 pounds per square inch. However, it has been shown that under a small amount of pressure (applied by a therapist's hands) fascia will soften and begin to release when the pressure is sustained over time. This process is similar to pulling on a piece of taffy with only a small, sustained pressure.
Another important aspect of myofascial release techniques is holding the technique long enough. The therapeutic affect will begin to take place after holding a gentle stretch and following the tissue three dimensionally with skilled, sensitive hands.
Myofascial Release is gentle, but it has profound effects upon the body tissues. Do not let the gentleness deceive you. You may leave after the first treatment feeling like nothing happened. Later (even a day later) you may begin to feel the effects of the treatment. Frequently there is increased pain for several hours to a day after treatment, followed by remarkable improvement. Often remarkable improvement is noted immediately during or after a treatment. Sometimes new pains in new areas will be experienced. There is sometimes a feeling of lightheadedness or nausea. Sometimes a patient experiences a temporary emotion change. All of these are normal reactions of the body to the profound, but positive, changes that have occurred by releasing fascial restrictions.
It is felt that release of tight tissue is accompanied by release of trapped metabolic waste products in the surrounding tissue and blood stream. We highly recommend that you “flush your system” by drinking a lot of fluid during the course of your treatments, so that reactions like nausea and lightheadedness will remain minimal or nil.
If patients have any questions or concerns that arise concerning myofascial release, they should be encouraged to discuss them with the therapist.