Many of my patients want to know more about Myofascial Release, MFR for short. It seems quite new to many people though it's growing in popularity in the UK. At the time of writing this, I am the only IMFT (Integrated Myofascial Therapy Certification Mark) registered therapist working in the Brighton and Hove area.
MFR is not really that new. The term was coined in the 1970's by Dr Janet Travell who is also known for her work on Trigger points, though she first used myofascia as a term in the 1940's. John Barnes (an American Physiotherapist) who is well known as one of the leaders in MFR today, runs courses and seminars all over the US.
But what IS it?
If you imagine your body being wrapped in a giant cobweb like structure. Though in this case it's not on the outside, its under your skin surrounding your muscles and organs. That is basically what (myo)fascia looks like. If you then go on to imagine being able to pull on one area of the web and think how it would affect the web as a whole... If you are not sure, put on a jumper and pull the hem on one side away from your body. You'll soon feel that the threads tighten across your chest and pull on your opposite shoulder. When there is a problem with your fascia, this is pretty much what happens. An area becomes restricted and tightness or discomfort is felt further along the web. For this reason, we do not always go direct to the site of pain when we treat with MFR, rather we look at the body as a whole and treat from the origin of the restriction.
What causes it to go wrong in the first place?
Fascia can become thickened due to problems such as poor posture or injury and over time this will cause a restriction in the surrounding tissues, which can lead to pain and loss of movement.
How does the treatment work?
The normal techniques of traditional massage and other methods of bodywork do not free up fascial restrictions simply because fascial work has to be applied in a different way. It's a fairly slow treatment and a whole hour can easily be spent just working on one area such as the back. No oils or lotions are used, we work on dry skin, and this gives us a better grip and ensures we are not merely working on the muscle. MFR can be applied quite gently using a combination of light pressure and stretch, this method is generally known as indirect MFR, or it can be deeper and firmer, a bit more like the sensation of deep tissue massage. This method is known as direct MFR.
In practice, I use a combination of both of these methods having trained to an advanced level and find that when combined, you can have powerful results in reducing pain and discomfort.