By Jowita Kochaniak – Sports Therapist, Myofascial release specialist and Pregnancy Massage Specialist at Bodylogics
Myofascial release (MFR) techniques are used in sports massage therapy along with many other techniques. This blog will look closer at how MFR works and how it can be used to release tension and pain from chronic (old) injuries, repetitive strain injuries and scarring.
What does ‘myofascial’ mean?
Myo – is used in relation to muscle in compound words, for example myocardium means the muscular substance of the heart.
Fascial refers to the fascia which is a type of connective tissue found throughout the whole body.
What is fascia?
Fascia is a whole-body system and constitutes around 20% of our body weight. Its main components are:
- Elastin fibers
- Collagen fibers
- Ground substance which has a fluid form.
Fascia can be compared to a 3-dimensional spider web on which a human body is built. Each cell, each fiber, all the muscles, bones and organs are embedded within fascia. Fascia is believed to play a paramount role in the transportation of nutrients and the flow of information to all the cells in the body.
In ideal circumstances fascia has gel-like, liquid consistency and facilitates stability, flexibility, ease of movement and pain free activities. It is naturally restriction-free and causes no restrictions in the muscular-skeletal system.
Physical trauma, such as accidents, surgery, poor posture, repetitive strain injuries as well as emotional trauma, for example post traumatic stress disorder or fear of re-injury, all cause fascia to solidify. Mobility of fascia decreases and fascial restrictions are created. These restrictions affect all the structures in the body and lead to symptoms such as tensions and pains. They also limit the range of movement.
So what actually is MFR?
Myofascial release (MFR) is a type of body treatment which aims to ease and remove the restrictions in muscles and fascia. General understanding is that fascia needs more time to relax than muscles. Postural observation before treatment helps to identify the imbalance in the body. Direct techniques such as stroking, strumming and skin rolling are used to break adhesions in collagen. They are the least gentle techniques and work rather superficially. The techniques used to affect fascia itself are very slow and gentle. A cross-hand release, a pull (fe of an arm), a transverse hold (fe of a joint) are used as the main part of an MFR treatment session. In order to make difference in fascia, each hold or pull must take between 2-5 minutes, and sometimes even longer. To a patient, especially one receiving firm, deep tissue and sports massages, the myofascial release treatment may seem gentle and slow. The results of the treatment, however, last longer.
Why is MFR important in Sports Massage Therapy?
Sheets of fascia surround and penetrate all the structures of our body.
Fascia and muscles relationship is extremely close. Each muscle fiber is surrounded by fascia, groups of muscle fibers are bound together by fascia into a muscle. Fascia merges to form a tendon which attaches a muscle to a bone, embeds a tendon into a bone and fans out around the bone forming periosteum. In this way, fascia creates a network which connects toes to head and is of paramount importance to the way the body moves.
Myofascial release techniques are used in sports massage therapy alongside other effective techniques such as soft tissue release, neuromuscular techniques, trigger point therapy.
MFR is specifically important in sports massage therapy as it helps with resolving issues around old injuries, scarring and chronic pain. It treats the whole system instead of focusing on localised problems. It addresses past traumas on physical and emotional level, helping patients regain confidence in using their bodies freely. It reduces the apprehension of performing certain movements by reducing tightness in the whole muscular-skeletal system.
If you want to find out more about Myofascia and it’s impacts on health and fitness then this documentary here is an excellent starting point to help offer further education on what it is and it’s importance.