At some time, you might have sensed chronic pain in the lower back, shoulder, knee, or any other muscles. Sometimes, injuries like falling, a car mishap, poor posture, and even stress can cause discomfort that does not seem to heal despite resting the affected area and taking painkillers. What you’re probably facing is myofascial pain. The main trouble with this issue is that MRI scans and X-rays may not be able to diagnose the cause. The only proper way to treat this problem is to go in for myofascial release therapy. But, before understanding what the therapy is all about, it is more important to understand what the fascia is.
What is Fascia?
The fascia is a three-dimensional continuous network of tissues that is present all over the body. These tissues are made of elastin and collagen fibers and envelop every blood vessel, nerve, bone, tendon, ligament, muscle, and organ in the body. These fibers are supported by a viscous liquid called ground substance. Together with the ground substance, the fascia works to cushion the stress of movement so that you’re able to move around without any pain or discomfort.
The fascia network is made of three layers:
Superficial fascia: This layer connects the skin to the muscles and contains water. It also stores fat and protects the nerves running through it. This fascia supports the muscles as they move under the skin.
- Deep fascia: This section surrounds and forms connections between the blood vessels, nerves, bone, and muscle.
- Deepest fascia: This layer protects the brain and supports the brain covering and spinal cord right up to the tail bone.
As long as your fascia is healthy, it remains soft and flexible and is able to absorb the impact of your activities. It also helps your muscles contract and relax at the appropriate times so that you continue to function normally. But, when you incur an injury or you’re stressed, the tension affects the flexibility of the fascia. They toughen and tighten in the affected area and you start to feel a constant pain and difficulty in movement. Since the fascia supports the other body systems, damage to this network may in turn, cause damage to the muscles, ligaments, and other areas that it protects.
In addition, any kind of trauma or pain in one section of the fascia may be communicated to other sections of the body through the network. For this reason, MRI scans are unable to find the exact location of the problem and may not be able to identify it at all.
What is Myofascial Release Therapy?
“Myo” is the word for muscle while “fascia” represents the protective sheath around them. Myofascial release therapy works to relieve the tensed or tightened fascia to give you relief from the pain. A hands-on modality, myofascial release therapy works to release the stress and tension in the fascia by way of gentle pressure on the affected area. As the therapist applies pressure and sustains it for a while, the liquid ground substance allows the fascia fibers to release stress and relax.
Therapists trained in myofascial release therapy have detailed knowledge of the different techniques that can help make movement easy and restore the flexibility of the muscles. With their training in the mechanics of the body, they can help you improve posture and learn how to move so that you don’t damage or stress your muscles. You’ll also learn how to strengthen your tissues. Since, certified myofascial release therapists work to release tension in the trigger points of the fascia, this healing modality is also called Trigger Point therapy or Myofascial Trigger Point therapy. These points are the specific regions in the network that are prone to chronic pain.
History of Myofascial Release Therapy
Myofascial release therapy was first developed in the 1920’s by William Neidner and Elizabeth Dicke, a German physiotherapist. History reports how in the 1940s, Janet G. Travell MD a physician at the White House developed the myofascial therapeutic modality to help President John F. Kennedy with the severe and constant pain he had in his lower back. Dr. Travell conducted research into the different trigger points of the body and showed how every trigger point in the muscles was related to a particular pattern of discomfort. She also demonstrated how a single trigger point can cause pain in different areas of the body. The modality practiced by myofascial therapists today uses her research and the protocols she developed as a basis.
Dr. Ida is also known to have created a treatment similar to myofascial release therapy under the term, Rolfing. She developed a system by which therapists could manipulate the muscles and soft tissues to correct faulty posture, realign the muscular structure, and alleviate pain. Today, many therapists combine myofascial release therapy with conventional massage therapy to help relieve stress and soothe the muscles.
Causes Behind Myofascial Issues
Myofascial pain typically occurs when tensed muscles do not allow the proper circulation of blood to the tissues. As a result, they tighten further and cannot heal unless they are treated properly. Myofascial pain can initiate from two sources:
- The trigger point, the specific area where the damaged muscle fibers contract and go into spasm.
- You might also feel pain when the muscles attached to the bones and other connecting tissue cannot move freely because of tensed fascia.
Indication of Myofascial Issues
The tightness of the fascia in any section of the body can pull the tissues of the that area out of alignment and make it difficult to move that area. If you notice any of these symptoms, you might want to seek out myofascial therapy.
- You seem to walk favoring a particular hip or leg and you use one arm or shoulder more than the other.
- You sense chronic headaches and lower back pain.
- You feel a pressure or stress on any particular muscles or joints that also causes pain.
Benefits of Myofascial Release Therapy
Patients typically consider getting myofascial release therapy when they lose complete movement or flexibility in a specific part of the body. These issues can arise because of an injury or because of chronic pain in any soft tissue such as the hip, shoulder, or lower back, among others. Myofascial release therapy can help release the stress in the fascia, alleviate pain, and restore free movement. In addition, the therapy can help with other issues such as:
- Migraine headaches
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder or pain in the joints that connect the lower jaw to the base of the skull under the ears.
Myofascial release therapy is a safe, non-invasive technique for releasing the stress and discomfort you might feel because of the misalignment of the fascia in the body. Choose a well-qualified therapist who is well-trained in administering the therapy and you’ll see a marked improvement in the pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints.
“What is Myofascial Release?” Myofascial Release Treatment Centers and Seminars. n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2017.
Ganfield, Lisa. OTR/L. CHT. “Myofascial Therapy for the Treatment of Acute and Chronic Pain.” Spine-health. 6 June 2009. Web. 3 Feb. 2017.
“What is Myofascial Release” Myofascial Release UK. n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2017.
“How did Trigger Point Therapy develop?” Myofascial Pain Treatment Center. n.d. Web. 3 Feb. 2017.