The myofascial release approach is a form of soft tissue therapy used to treat somatic dysfunction and resulting pain and restriction of motion. It is a treatment originally described by Andrew Taylor Still, founder of osteopathy/osteopathic medicine.
The term myofascial release has been loosely used for different manual therapy techniques, including soft tissue manipulation work such as connective tissue massage, soft tissue mobilisation, foam rolling, structural integration, and strain/counter strain techniques.
Myofascial techniques generally fall under the two main categories of passive (patient stays completely relaxed) or active (patient provides resistance as necessary), with direct and indirect techniques used in each.
Indirect Myofascial Release involves a gentle stretch, with only a few grams of pressure, which allows the fascia to ‘unwind’ itself. The dysfunctional tissues are guided along the path of least resistance until free movement is achieved.
According to Ward, myofascial release originated from the concept by Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of osteopathic medicine in the late 19th century. The concepts and techniques were subsequently developed by his successor. Ward further suggested that the term “myofascial release” as a technique was coined in 1981 when it was used as a course title at Michigan State University. It was popularised and taught to physical therapists, massage therapists, occupational therapists and physicians by John F. Barnes through his myofascial release seminar series
The indirect myofascial release technique, according to Barnes, is as follows
Lightly contact the fascia with relaxed hands.
Slowly stretch the fascia until reaching a barrier/restriction.
Maintain a light pressure to stretch the barrier for approximately 3–5 minutes.
Prior to release, the therapist will feel a therapeutic pulse (e.g., heat).
As the barrier releases, the hand will feel the motion and softening of the tissue.
The key is sustained pressure over time.
The direct myofascial release (or deep tissue work) method engages the myofascial tissue “restrictive barrier” (tension). The tissue is loaded with a constant force until release occurs. Practitioners use knuckles, elbows, or other tools to slowly stretch the restricted fascia by applying a few kilograms of force. Direct myofascial release is an attempt to bring about changes in the myofascial structures by stretching or elongation of fascia, or mobilising adhesive tissues. The practitioner moves slowly through the layers of the fascia until the deep tissues are reached.
Myofascial Release has been used to treat:
Back Pain, Headaches, Whiplash, Pelvic Pain, Neck Pain, Sports Injuries, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and many other conditions