What is Myofascial Release (MFR)?

Before you can understand what myofascial release is and how it can help you, you need to understand something about the fascia first.

This form of bodywork aims to restore your body’s ideal structure and function by working with your fascia. The fascia runs throughout your whole body, connecting and supporting all of the other structures: bones, muscles, vital organs, nerves, blood vessels and skin. It holds the whole body together and enables it to function as one integrated unit. It forms the ligaments which connect two bones at a joint, the tendons which attach muscles to the bones and the membranes surrounding and protecting your internal organs. It can be likened to a semi-liquid, onesie or sling system, aptly described by Sue Adstrum as the “living wetsuit”. It’s everywhere and it’s all connected. When it works well, it distributes forces appropriately through all the structures of your body, heavily loading those areas which can take the strain, while sparing those areas made for lighter work, so that you can move and function at your best. The fascia also contains more sensory nerves than any other part of your body, which send feedback to your brain concerning posture, movement and pain. It therefore plays a huge role in body awareness.

Tension, injury and postural habits cause inflammation and dehydration in the fascia, making it more solid and sticky. As it sticks to itself (rather like clingfilm), it creates lines of strain in the body, movement becomes restricted and the balanced distribution of forces through the body becomes disrupted, as we compensate for the pain and lack of movement. This is why you may feel pain somewhere else in your body, rather than where the problem originally occurred. It is rather like your jumper getting tucked up at the front, which then feels like it is pulling at the back.

What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release (MFR) is a form of hands-on therapy, which unsticks the fascia, enables healing and restores balance and movement in the body. It involves slow, sustained pressure, pulling, stretching and facilitated movement. the fascia changes from being solid and sticky, back to it’s original, mobile, semi-liquid state. As the fascia moves, it takes the bones, muscles and organs attached to it back to their correct positions. The therapist works with the client’s individual movement patterns and at the client’s own pace, enabling the body to self-correct, rather than imposing change on the body by force. This is why treatment sessions tend to be longer, generally 90 minutes. The whole body is treated, not just the areas causing you pain. For example, your current shoulder pain could be linked with a scar from an operation which you had 20 years ago.

During treatment, nerve signals are sent from the fascia to the brain, informing it of the changes being made in the body. The person thus becomes more body-aware and immediately starts to notice the difference between treated and untreated areas. The brain unconsciously learns a new normal in terms of posture and alignment and can therefore send nerve signals to the fascia to maintain the changes. This is why the effects of MFR are long-lasting and can become permanent with only a little conscious effort from the client, alongside appropriate rehabilitation, such as exercise and stress management.

How does MFR feel??

The therapist works directly on your skin, without oil, sometimes using a small amount of distilled plant water, to facilitate traction. Holds and stretches are sustained for several minutes at a time, following your fascial responses. You may feel heat, cold, heaviness or lightness. It may feel as if fluid is moving or rippling within your body, or that you are being moved within your own skin. You may experience tingling, aching, stinging or burning – a bit like a Chinese burn. You may even feel these sensations in a completely different area from that being treated, which may give important clues as to the underlying cause of your pain. You therefore need to stay focused during treatment and give your therapist feedback about what you are feeling. Your body may begin to move spontaneously, as the fascial restrictions unravel and the body realigns (unwinding). This is different from conscious, voluntary movement and helps to re-establish healthy movement and postural patterns.

The release of physical tension may be accompanied by releases of pent-up emotion, which caused the tension in the first place. MFR treatment is therefore extremely beneficial for those whose physical pain relates to past emotional trauma. Treatment may lead to an increase in healthy emotional responses and greater emotional resilience.

Which Conditions does it treat?

The most common conditions that we treat are:

  • Long-term, unresolved back, neck and shoulder pain
  • Painful and problematic scars from surgery or injury, e.g. cancer removal or self-harm scars
  • Tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow and carpel tunnel syndrome
  • Frozen shoulder/tendinopathy
  • Recurrent headaches/migraines
  • Jaw tension/clicking/tooth grinding
  • Sinus congestion, difficulty breathing through your nose and snoring
  • Breast complaints, e.g. tenderness, lactation difficulties and surgical scars
  • Digestive complaints, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome
  • Women’s health issues, e.g. menstrual pain, endometriosis and Caesarean scars
  • Long-term pain conditions e.g. fibromyalgia and Llupus

What happens in the treatment sessions?

During this session, we assess your needs and work out the best treatment option for you to move forward. MFR is not offered on a session-by-session basis, since the focus is on your outcome. Similarly to when you have a job done on your house or garden, so that you can fully enjoy it, our aim is to help you out of pain for good, so that you can enjoy living in your body and focus on the things that matter to you.

For best results, MFR is offered in conjunction with other approaches to tackle your pain from every angle: mind-body connection, exercise and rehabilitation and  nutritional therapy, plus any other specific help you may need.