What is Myofascial Release Therapy ?
Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR, also known as myofascial therapy or myofascial trigger point therapy) is a type of safe, low load stretch that releases tightness and pain throughout the body, not just limited to the causes of myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome describes chronic muscle pain that is worse in certain areas known as ‘trigger points’. Myofascial Release Therapy focuses on releasing muscular tightness and shortness. The goal of Myofascial Release Therapy is to loosen and stretch the fascia so that it and other contiguous structures can move more freely, pain is ridden from the body, and the patient’s motion is restored.
There are a number of symptoms and conditions that are addressed effectively with Myofascial Release Therapy.
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 carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder and migraine headaches. Symptoms usually experienced by patients include:
- Tightness of the tissues that restricts motion or pulls the body out of alignment, causing individuals to, for example, favor and overuse one hip or shoulder
- A sense of excessive pressure on joints or muscles that produces pain
- Pain in any part or parts of the body, including neck and back pain, and headaches.
Causes of Myofascial Pain
Myofascial Release Therapy relieves soft tissue restrictions that limit motion and cause pain. Myofascial pain can have two sources. Pain can be generated from the skeletal muscle or connective tissues that are ‘bound down’ by tight fascia. Pain additionally can also be generated from myofascial tissue itself that is damaged, sometimes where a contraction of muscle fibers has occurred at a ‘trigger point’. In either one of these two instances, blood flow to the affected structures is inhibited by the contraction or restriction, so the contraction process is further accentuated unless the area is treated. Myofascial pain syndrome is caused by injury or damage to the fascia. The syndrome causes chronic pain in muscles throughout the body that is worse in the trigger point areas.
Some causes of chronic myofascial pain or lower back pain are easier to diagnose than others: trauma (such as a fall or a car accident), mechanical deficits or cumulative posture misalignment, inflammatory conditions, or a compressed nerve from a herniated disc.
Pain caused by myofascial tightness within the fascial system (the web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body and surrounds every bone, muscle, nerve blood vessel, and organ to the cellular level) is more difficult to diagnose because fascia restrictions do not show up on X-rays or MRI scans. Yet, those restrictions play a significant role in creating pain and malfunction in the structure of the spine, extremities and organs.
Fascia is a three-dimensional web that permeates the whole body. The best way to envision the expanse of the fascial system is to think of it as a layer of connective tissue (similar to a ligament or tendon) that starts with the top layer directly below the skin, and extends to two deeper layers.
When the fascia is in its normal healthy state it is a relaxed and supple web – like the weave in a loose-knit sweater. When it is restricted, it is less pliable and more rigid, and can create tensions, pulls, and pressure as great as 2,000 pounds per square inch. The fascia is a continuous system, running from the bottom of our feet through the top of our head and has three layers:
- Superficial fascia, which lies directly below the skin. It stores water and fat, allows nerves to run through it, and allows muscle to move the skin.
- Deep fascia, which surrounds and infuses with muscle, bone, nerves, and blood vessels to the cellular level.
- Deepest fascia, which sits within the dura of the craniosacral system.
Fascia restrictions can occur within any or all of the layers.
Providers of Myofascial Release Therapy
Many different types of health professionals can provide Myofascial Release Therapy, including appropriately trained osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, physical or occupational therapists, or sports medicine/injury specialists. Specific training and courses in Myofascial Release Therapy are necessary and can be extensive to attain a high level of competency. Southwest Physical Therapy specializes in Myofascial Release Therapy and uses it to effectively provide patients with pain relief, restored function, improved mobility, increased strength and flexibility, and proper alignment.
Therapy sessions follow a pattern similar to physical therapy for post-operative rehabilitation. An initial appointment will be devoted to locating the areas of the fascia that appear to be restricted, and measuring the level of loss of motion or loss of symmetry in the body. Subsequent treatment sessions may:
- Last at least 30 but optimally 50 minutes or more per session
- Be conducted daily or every few days
- Take place at outpatient clinic or physical therapy health center such as Southwest Physical Therapy in Brooklyn, NYC
- Have a trained physical therapist provide hands-on treatment in a relaxing, private therapy room
- Take place over a few weeks or months, depending on the nature and intensity of disability and pain.
The specific releases to different parts of the body vary, but generally include gentle application of pressure or sustained low load stretch to the affected area. Progress is gauged by the level of increased motion or function experienced, and/or decrease in pain felt by the patient.
Additional Treatments with Myofascial Release Therapy
Myofascial Release Therapy can be a complement and precursor to other treatments. Patients who engage in Myofascial Release Therapy also benefit from other forms of nonsurgical care that aim to control pain and keep muscles and joints loose and warm. These include:
- Using ice to calm swollen areas or applying heat to soothe constricted muscles.
- Using non-prescription pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Performing self-stretching exercises to increase range of motion and maintain flexibility or aerobic exercise to increase blood flow to the affected areas.
Myofascial Release Therapy also assists or enhances other treatments to increase their effectiveness such as manipulation, physical therapy, acupuncture, or occupational therapy. Myofascial Release Therapy also improves skeletal and muscular alignment prior to a surgery, and helps athletes achieve better alignment prior to sports competitions.
Myofascial Release Therapy helps prepare patients for more aggressive forms of strengthening by targeting specific areas of the fascial system, and provides pain relief for patients with restricted movement and flexibility, thus allowing patients to return to normal movement and greater function. Myofascial Release Therapy is best performed at Southwest Physical Therapy at the greatest price in Brooklyn, NYC. Visit us.