The term “myofascial” was first coined by Researcher and M.D. Janet Travelli in the 1940’s to refer to the tissues surrounding the muscles and yet, she felt, contributing to the symptoms of her patients with “Myofascial Pain Syndrome”. The term “myofascial release” (MFR) was created two decades later by an osteopath named Robert Ward who, along with physical therapist John Barnes, is considered the founder of this technique. Barnes, a prominent educator and pioneer of MFR, first began treating patients in 1960 before developing techniques that shifted emphasis away from joint manipulation and muscle energy, placing a greater emphasis on myofascial release.
Terminology can differ among practitioners, with some using the term ‘myofascial therapy’ to define a broad range of techniques and other preferring the term ‘myosacial trigger point release’ (TPR) in order to describe MFR when used at a trigger point site with MFR used to describe techniques used on any part of the body in order to achieve a specific goal. All of these terms are used to loosely define different manual therapy techniques that include soft-tissue manipulation and mobilization.
MFR can be employed as either a passive technique when used on patients who remain complete relaxed or as an active technique, which requires the patient to provide active resistance.
MFR is a hands-on massage technique that entails the gentle application of pressure to be placed on the myofascial connective tissue in order to eliminate restrictions, alleviate pain and to restore range of motion to specific areas of the body. This technique utilizes a principle known as the piezoelectric phenomenon, which produces a change in electrical polarization in response to the application of mechanical force. According to some of its originators, the anatomical application of this principle results in the elongation of the fascia in response to sustained pressure.
This method involves the application of constant force until a “release” occurs. Practitioners make use of the knuckles, elbows and tools in order to stretch the fascia and attempt to elongate and mobilize adhered tissues. Using this method, the therapist works slowly through the various layers of fascia until they are able to reach deeper tissues.
The indirect method requires a gentle stretch that only applies slight pressure in order to guide the fascia as it unwinds along the path of least resistance until optimal free movement can be achieved.
MFR can alleviate pain, restore range of motion and even assist in the process of recovery from a sports injury. In addition to discomfort caused by myofascial pain, sufferers may also experience an increase the frequency and severity of anxiety, depression and sleep disorders such as insomnia. Severe and chronic discomfort may indicate an underlying medical issue, known as myofascial pain syndrome, which a massage can be very effective in treating. Myofascial release massage techniques are an effective way of addressing a range of physical issues as well any emotional conditions that chronic or intense pain may be exasperating.
What to Expect:
It is always important to drink plenty of water before session in order to stay properly hydrated. Wear comfortable loose-fitting clothing that does not restrict movement. An MFR session will not require you to undress, but you may benefit from taking a hot shower before hand in order to ensure your body is free of any oils, lotions or other products that may interfere with the process.