Myofascial therapy to treat acute and chronic pain.
Myofascial therapy relieves soft tissue restrictions that cause pain.
Some causes of chronic pain or low back pain are easier to diagnose than others: trauma (such as a car accident or fall), cumulative posture misalignment or mechanical deficits, a compressed nerve from a herniated disc, or inflammatory conditions. When pain is caused by tightness within the fascial system (the web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body and surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve blood vessel and organ to the cellular level) the diagnosis is more difficult, as fascial restrictions do not show up on MRI scans or x-rays. Yet, those restrictions can play a significant role in creating pain and malfunction in the structure of the spine, extremities and organs. Myofascial Release (MFR) Therapy is a type of safe, low load stretch that releases tightness and the pain caused by these restrictions throughout the body.
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 tendon or ligament) 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 more rigid and less pliable, and can create pulls, tensions and pressure as great as 2,000 pounds per square inch. The fascia is a continuous system, running from the bottom of the feet through the top of the head and has three layers:
- Superficial fascia, which lies directly below the skin. It stores fat and water, 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 cranial sacral system.
Restrictions can occur within any or all of the layers.
Myofascial therapy focuses on releasing muscular shortness and tightness
There are a number of conditions and symptoms that myofascial therapy addresses. Many patients seek treatment after losing flexibility or function following an injury or if experiencing ongoing back, shoulder, neck, hip or virtually pain in any area containing soft tissue. Other conditions treated by myofascial therapy include Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, or possibly fibromyalgia or migraine headaches. Patient symptoms usually include:
- Tightness of the tissues that restricts motion or pulls the body out of alignment, causing individuals to favor and overuse one hip or shoulder, for example
- A sense of excessive pressure on muscles or joints that produces pain
- Pain in any part or parts of the body, including headache or back 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. In addition, pain can also be generated from damaged myofascial tissue itself, sometimes at a ‘trigger point’ where a contraction of muscle fibers has occurred. In either case, the restriction or contraction inhibits blood flow to the affected structures, thus accentuating the contraction process further unless the area is treated.
Myofascial therapy can be a precursor and complement to other treatments
Patients who engage in myofascial therapy also may benefit from other forms of conservative care that aim to control pain and keep muscles and joints warm and loose. These include:
- Using non-prescription pain relievers such acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
- Applying heat to soothe constricted muscles or using ice to calm inflamed areas
- Performing self-stretching exercises to maintain flexibility and increase range of motion or aerobic exercise to increase blood flow to the affected areas
Myofascial therapy can also enhance or assist other treatments to increase their effectiveness such as acupuncture, manipulation, physical therapy or occupational therapy. Myofascial release therapy can also improve skeletal and muscular alignment prior to a surgery, or help athletes achieve better alignment prior to sports competitions.
By targeting specific areas of the fascial system, myofascial therapy can help prepare patients for more aggressive forms of strengthening, or provide pain relief for patients with restricted flexibility and movement, thus allowing patients to return to normal movement and greater function.