When someone hears the phrase, “I so need a massage,” several images probably spring to mind. Soothing background music, a quiet room, and peacefully resting on a table as a massage therapist works to soothe and relieve the stress currently inhabiting your muscles.
While that is an accurate portrayal in some cases, the list of modalities that fall under the massage umbrella is considerable. These range from Swedish massage to deep tissue massage to pregnancy massage. And then there is myofascial release. This massage technique is climbing up the ranks in popularity, but it’s fairly new to the spa scene when compared with other traditional massage methods.
What is Myofascial Release?
According to the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), myofascial release is the combination of applying sustained pressure and movement to the body’s fascia. This type of treatment relieves any restrictions in the fascia. Tension and trauma to one part of the body can affect another part of the body, since fascia is connected all over the entire body.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is located throughout the body. It is a connective wrap of glycoproteins that hold muscles, bones, tendons, and joints in place according to Men’s Health. Individual muscle fibers are wrapped in a thin fascial layer. These are grouped into bundles surrounded by more fascia. Finally, there’s fascia encasing the bundles, resulting in what we refer to as the muscle. Pain results when your fascia tightens in ways it shouldn’t. Scar tissue occurs when fascia fibers rebuild in a crisscross pattern whereas healthy fascia fibers all run in the same direction.
Myofascial Release Benefits
John F. Barnes, PT, is a well-known authority on myofascial release. For over 50 years, Barnes has been using myofascial release to treat a variety of body ailments including fibromyalgia, bulging discs, Carpal Tunnel, frozen shoulder, headaches, sciatica, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.
Some of the benefits myofascial release provides include:
- Reduces pain and anxiety levels
- Improves sleep quality in fibromyalgia patients
- Decreases fascia restrictions, or, tissue tightness
- Improves mobility
- Helps correct posture alignment issues
- Relieves lower back spasms
- Decompresses nerves
Use Cases for Myofascial Release Therapy
As Barnes notes, the list of ailments that can be helped with myofascial release is lengthy.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder in which a person is afflicted with musculoskeletal pain and accompanying mood, fatigue, sleep, and memory issues according to the Mayo Clinic. Physical trauma, surgery, infections, and psychological stress can trigger this condition. In some cases, the syndrome manifests itself over time with no identifiable cause.
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported on a study that was designed to determine if myofascial release therapy had any benefits on pain, anxiety, depression, sleep quality, and overall quality of life in fibromyalgia patients.
The study revealed that myofascial release reduces sensitivity to pain and anxiety levels while improving the quality of sleep and physical function of those people who have fibromyalgia.
A bulging disc is a disc-degeneration issue that tends to develop with age and can affect multiple discs notes Penn Medicine. They can bring about pain in the back, legs, or buttocks in addition to affect your ability to walk.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition noted for numbness and a tingling sensation in the hands and arms caused by a compressed nerve in the carpal tunnel according to the Mayo Clinic. One nerve and nine tendons run through the tunnel, so tendon(s) pressing on the median nerve are usually the culprit. Repetitive motions can cause compression and swelling of the nerves that feed the hands. Also referred to as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint. It tends to start gradually and worsen with time.
Headaches can develop in any region of the head. The pain can be sharp, throbbing, or a dull ache. Causes include stress, poor posture, and trauma, like a concussion.
The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the jaw bone to the skull on each side of the jaw notes the Mayo Clinic. It can be caused by genetics, arthritis, or a jaw injury.
If you suffer from any of the ailments listed above, myofascial release might be one treatment avenue worth exploring.
*If you’d like to book a massage that employs myofascial release, please add a note in your booking request, and we’ll do our best to match you with a massage therapist skilled in this technique. However, because this is a specialized technique which not all massage therapists are trained in, we cannot guarantee a match.
Steven Auger is a freelance writer whose specialty niches include health and fitness, family and parenting, and dental health and oral care. Auger’s work has appeared on sites such as Planet Fitness, Care.com, Family Education, Colgate and Tom's of Maine. A born and bred New Englander, Auger lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young sons, and their dog. In his spare time he enjoys staying physically fit, traveling, and cooking. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube