There are a number of conditions and symptoms that myofascial release therapy addresses. Many patients seek myofascial treatment after losing flexibility or function following an injury or if experiencing ongoing back, shoulder, hip, or virtually pain in any area containing soft tissue.
Other conditions treated by myofascial release therapy include Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, or possibly fibromyalgia or migraine headaches. Patient symptoms usually include:
Tightness of the tissues that restricts motion or pulls the body out of alignment, causing individuals to favor and overuse one hip or shoulder, for example
A sense of excessive pressure on muscles or joints that produces pain
Pain in any part or parts of the body, including headache or back pain
Fascia, an embryological connective tissue, is a 3D continuous web of elastin and collagen fibres surrounded by a viscous fluid called the ground substance. These two fibre types allow it to be very strong yet have a high degree of flexibility whilst the ground substance is a fluid transportation medium and acts a slide and glide mechanism between structures.
Research has proven that fascia, like muscle, has the ability to contract and relax and plays a major role in mobility and stability of joints. Fascia acts as a tensegrity (tension and integrity) model where tension and resistance rely on each other for stability and function.
Following all physical and emotional trauma and through poor posture, fascia scars and hardens in the affected site and along the tension lines imposed on it. This causes the fascial network to lose its cushioning mechanism and internal structures become pulled out of alignment. This in turn creates an abnormal pressure, up to 2,000 pounds (Katake 1961) per square inch, crushing nerves, blood and lymphatic vessels and further creating tension on adjacent pain-sensitive structures and those along the fascial pull.
When Fascia Injured
Myofascial restrictions do not show up on any of the standard tests (x-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s etc) so these myofascial restrictions have been ignored or misdiagnosed. Because fascia permeates all regions of the body and is all interconnected, when scars harden 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 and now often can be understood in relationship to our understanding of the fascial system.
Treating Myofascial Restrictions
The point of all the above information is to help you understand that during myofascial release treatments, you may be treated in areas that you may not think are related to your condition. The trained therapist has a thorough understanding of the fascial system and will “release” the fascia in areas that he/she knows have a strong “drag” on your area of injury. This is, therefore, a whole body approach to treatment.
Muscle provides the greatest bulk of our body’s soft tissue. Because all muscle is enveloped by and ingrained with fascia, myofascial release is the term that has been given to the techniques that are used to relieve soft tissue from the abnormal grip of tight fascia (“myo” means “Muscle”).
The type of myofascial release technique given by the therapist will depend upon where in your body the therapist finds the fascia restricted.
The therapist needs to use “skin to skin” contact to provide the friction interface needed to release the fascia effectively. Therefore, the patient should be “comfortably undressed”, wearing, for example a two piece bathing suit, pants and bra or gym shorts and sports bra / tank top.
Myofascial Release treatment sessions are often extremely relaxing. The therapist, however the therapist encourages the patient to be present and aware of sensations within their body and engage patient in active micro movement participation. Feedback from the patient to the therapist regarding what they are feeling helps the therapist to be as effective as possible.
Sometimes, but not always, there is a temporary increase in pain after treatment (“Getting worse before you get better”). There is no cause for alarm, but certainly notify the therapist because this is valuable information. This period of the “healing crisis” is then 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 light-headedness 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 the fascial restrictions. Any and all of these reactions should be communicated with the therapist.
We highly recommend that you “flush your system” by drinking a lot of fluids during the course of your treatments, so that reactions like nausea and light-headedness will remain minimal or nil.
Conditions we treat:
The multiple muscle strains that are the result of a whiplash injury can cause soft tissue adhesions, hypersensitive Myofascial Trigger Points and persistent headaches. A pain, muscle spasm, postural asymmetry feedback loop can be established as a result of the initial injury. Aggressive early medical and physical therapy treatment of the whiplash injury can prevent a feedback loop from being created. However, once a feedback loop is established, the same treatment approach described under COMPLEX PAIN COMPLAINTS is followed
Myofascial Release can decrease the chronic tightness of the posterior cervical musculature and the sensitivity of the Myofascial Trigger Points that cause muscle tension headaches. Myofascial Release can decrease the frequency and intensity of tension headaches. A tension headache can be totally eliminated during a treatment session. By decreasing the tension headache component, migraine headaches can also be decreased in intensity and frequency.
JAW PAIN, TMJ related problems: grinding teeth at night; clenching the jaw Asymmetry of the muscles of mastication, forward head posture, tightness of the posterior cervical musculature and multiple Myofascial Trigger Points can cause or are the result of TMJ problems. All of the soft tissue problems need to be addressed to achieve maximum effectiveness of the dental treatment. Myofascial Release is used to stretch the posterior cervical musculature and decrease the sensitivity of the Myofascial Trigger Points.
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME
Anterior chest wall tightness, forward head posture and active myofascial trigger points can cause carpal tunnel symptoms. Myofascial Stretching of the anterior chest wall decreases the asymmetrical pull that causes protraction of the scapulae and contributes to the forward head posture. Myofascial Trigger Points in the pectoralis minor and the forearm can be neutralized at the same time.
BACK STRAIN, chronic back pain, low back pain, thoracic back pain
Persistent, recurrent back pain can cause or be the result of asymmetrical soft tissue tension that does not respond to active stretching by the patient. Active myofascial trigger points can be the stimuli for continued muscle spasm. The pain–spasm cycle further distorts the patient’s posture and causes additional soft tissue injury. Using Focused Myofascial Stretching, the physical therapist can neutralize the trigger points and equalize the soft tissue tension, decreasing the postural asymmetries.
Myofascial Release can stretch the plantar fascia and decrease soft tissue adhesions that keep the plantar fascia in a chronically shortened position. The shortened fascia can cause an altered gait pattern resulting in knee or hip pain that does not respond to direct treatment. As the plantar fascia is stretched, the foot pain will decrease and normal foot motion will be restored.