Myofascial release has been all the rage lately, but what is fascia anyway? In our bodies, fascia exists as a network of connective tissue that surrounds, encloses, supports, and separates all of our organs and tissues – essentially acting as our bodies internal organizer! But what many may not realize is that their chronic low back, neck or shoulder pain could be because of a loss of range in motion due to thickening and adhesions of this fascia.
What is Myofascial Pain?
Pain can result when fascia becomes disrupted, entangled, thickened, or tightened by traumatic injury, disease, skeletal abnormalities, stress, anxiety, or even genetics. Healthy muscle tissue in its resting state should be pliable, soft, supple, moveable, contracting to a firm state upon the use of the joint to which it inserts. Releasing of the fascial tissue allows for the muscle to return to its resting state, thereby relieving pain and discomfort and enabling more movement.
According to the Mayo Clinic, you may be experiencing myofascial pain if you have deep, aching pain in a muscle, pain that persists or worsens, a tender knot in a muscle, and/or difficulty sleeping due to pain. Studies show that ultrasound imaging can be helpful in diagnosing myofascial irregularities, especially in cases of plantar fasciitis and chronic low back pain. MFR techniques can be helpful for assistance in relieving tightness in the soft tissue that restricts movement when suffering from injury, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. One study suggests that MFR may even be better than traditional Swedish massage at treating fibromyalgia associated pain.
How MFR Differs from Traditional Massage
In contrast to deep tissue massage, MFR is considered to be a much gentler approach. You can expect manual manipulation through warming and sustained lengthening, holding and stretching in addition to cupping therapy. If you’re more keen on deep tissue massages, worry not! MFR can be used in combination with a traditional deep tissue massage once you’ve loosened up a little. Myofascial Release treatment can be found professionally in massage therapy clinics, physical therapy treatment, chiropractic offices, and can even be implemented at home with the right self-care tools.
Self-Care MFR Tools
The tools used at home for MFR self-care consist of balls, sticks, and rollers. One can travel with tennis balls, lacrosse balls and textured trigger point balls in their cars, gym bags or luggage to roll the fascia out while on the go. Additionally, you can lengthen and stretch on a larger yoga ball or exercise ball. Foam rollers are also a great option because they help to stretch and release tight fascia; these rollers can be used at night for recovery or in the morning to prepare for the workday. There are a variety of rollers available in different firmness options as well as with trigger point patterns embedded in the roller. Last but not least, let’s not forget the power of isolated stretching! In practice, isolated stretching has proved to be an effective way to reduce inflammation in connective tissues. A licensed Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer can confidently recommend valuable stretches for almost any condition.
The most successful alternative therapies involve a professional/patient treatment plan. Supplementing with a home care plan is the best plan for relief.