Fascia is connective tissue that is woven around each and every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein in our bodies, as well as all of our internal organs, including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. It is quite literally what holds us together. Evidence suggests that the fascia can be damaged by both physical and mental impact. In structure, fascia is like candy floss or a knitted sweater; tightly interwoven and web-like. If you picture an orange, it is not that dissimilar to the transparent layer of skin that surrounds each and every segment. It is thin white layer beneath the skin, similar to what you see when you cut up a chicken breast.
Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. The pain usually originates from specific points within your myofascial tissues called “trigger points.”
Myofascial release focuses on reducing pain by easing the tension and tightness in the trigger points. It’s not always easy to understand what trigger point is responsible for the pain. Localizing pain to a specific trigger point is very difficult. For that reason, myofascial release is often used over a broad area of muscle and tissue rather than at single points.
Most myofascial release treatments take place during a massage therapy session. Some chiropractors and traditional medical practitioners may also offer it. Your therapist will gently massage the fascia and feel for stiff or tightened areas. Normal fascia should feel pliable and elastic. The therapist will begin massaging and stretching the areas that feel rigid with light manual pressure. The therapist then aids the tissue and supportive sheath in releasing pressure and tightness. The process is repeated multiple times on the same trigger point and on other trigger points until the therapist feels the tension is fully released.
These areas where the massage therapist is working may not be near where the pain originates or where you feel the pain most prominently. Myofascial release works the broader network of muscles that might be causing your pain. It tries to reduce tension throughout your body by releasing trigger points across a broad section of your muscular system.
Myofascial release by massage therapy has very few risks. Whether you’re trying to relax or aiming to ease back pain, massage therapy may be beneficial for pain reduction.