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What Are The Health Benefits Of Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release is a safe and effective massage technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure to the trigger points to alleviate pain and restore movement and function within the joints and soft tissue. This therapy can be effective for a wide range of ailments including congenital vertebral abnormalities, fatigue, menstrual and pelvic pain, sports injuries.

Muscles make up nearly half of our bodies, yet mainstream medical practices often neglect what’s been called the “orphan organ.” This has made room for alternative manual therapies that use hand movements or massage to skillfully alleviate pain and restore movement and function within the joints and soft tissue. Myofascial release is one such holistic approach that is quickly gaining popularity. What does the therapy involve and what are its benefits? Can it actually ease pain? Read on to find out.

The term myofascial is derived from myo (muscle) and fascia (the connective tissue that separates and encloses muscle). Myofascial release (MFR) is a massage technique that manipulates muscle tissue and relieves built-up tension in the fascia. It’s been used to treat a variety of chronic disorders.1

So how does myofascial release work?

Targeting Trigger Points

About 36–42% of your body weight is made up of muscles, all which are essential in performing normal activities with ease. However, these muscles can develop trigger points, which can be caused by lack of exercise, repetitive mechanical movements, poor posture, direct injuries, postural imbalance (e.g., unequal leg length), joint disorders, lack of quality sleep, and vitamin deficiencies. These sensitive trigger points result in pain, stiffness, tension, physical limitation, and loss of normal function.2

When compressed, trigger points are painful and can radiate pain and tenderness into other areas (referred pain), as well as restrict movement of the affected muscle. More often than not, trigger points occur in muscles used to maintain posture, that is, muscles in the neck, shoulders, and pelvic girdle. Depending on the area, trigger points can cause headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, eye tension or pain, decreased motion in legs, and low back pain.3

How Myofascial Release Works

Various methods can be used to release these trigger points. In myofascial release, the tissue is stretched at a long, slow, and moderate manner in order to restore its optimal length, decrease pain, and improve overall function.4 Unlike other manual therapies that employ deep pressure to the trigger points, myofascial release focuses on gentle pressure and stretching of the area.5

How Myofascial Release Helps

According to experts, myofascial release can be effective for a wide range of ailments, including pain, restrictive movement, muscle spasms, neurological dysfunction, head and birth injury, congenital vertebral abnormalities, scoliosis, menstrual and pelvic pain and dysfunction, headaches, geriatrics, sports injuries, pediatrics, chronic fatigue, and more.6

Myofascial release is emerging as a technique with immense potential.7 Some significant studies have proven its benefits among various conditions.

  • Chronic low back pain due to lumbar dysfunction is a common cause of disability. One study found that myofascial release was effective in reducing pain and functional disability in people with chronic low back pain.8
  • Fibromyalgia is a rheumatic condition characterized by generalized pain, joint rigidity, intense fatigue, sleep alterations, headache, spastic colon, craniomandibular dysfunction, anxiety, and depression. Studies have shown that myofascial release can help alleviate pain and improve quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.9
  • Postmenopausal women often experience insufficient blood flow in veins and this can cause immense pain and disability. Along with kinesiotherapy, myofascial release can reduce this pain and improve blood flow and overall quality of life.10
  • Studies have also shown that myofascial release combined with paradoxical relaxation training can be effective in managing chronic pelvic pain in men. It helps provide better pain and urinary symptom relief than traditional therapy.11
  • Myofascial release has also proved to be more effective than ultrasound therapy in treating plantar heel pain.12
  • Athletes can benefit from myofascial release, which aids in muscle recovery following exercise, thus helping prevent injury.13
  • Myofascial release can also be used to treat sports injuries such as repetitive strain injuries often seen in long distance runners; muscular imbalances, which lead to overuse of isolated joints and faulty movement patterns; and pelvic misalignment, which can greatly impact competitive performance.14

References   [ + ]

1. Myofascial release. Jonas: Mosby’s Dictionary of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 8th edition. (2009).
2. Myofascial Trigger Point Therapy – What Is It? National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists.
3. Alavrez, David J., and Pamela G Rockwell. “Trigger Points: Diagnosis and Management”. American Family Physician. 2002.Feb 15;65(4):653-661.
4, 7. Ajimsha, M. S., Noora R. Al-Mudahka, and J. A. Al-Madzhar. “Effectiveness of myofascial release: Systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Journal of bodywork and movement therapies 19, no. 1 (2015): 102-112.
5. Clark, Carolyn Chambers. Encyclopedia of complementary health practice. Springer Publishing Company, 1999.
6. Barnes, John F. “Myofascial Release: The “Missing Link” in Your Treatment.” Norfolk, VA: Rehabilitation Services Inc (1995).
8. Ellythy, Marzouk A. “Effectiveness of Myofascial Release Technique in Management of Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain.” Bulletin of Faculty of Physical Therapy 16, no. 2 (2011).
9. Castro-Sánchez, Adelaida María, Guillermo A. Matarán-Peñarrocha, José Granero-Molina, Gabriel Aguilera-Manrique, José Manuel Quesada-Rubio, and Carmen Moreno-Lorenzo. “Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2011 (2010).
10. Ramos-González, Elena, Carmen Moreno-Lorenzo, Guillermo A. Matarán-Peñarrocha, Rafael Guisado-Barrilao, María Encarnación Aguilar-Ferrándiz, and Adelaida María Castro-Sánchez. “Comparative study on the effectiveness of myofascial release manual therapy and physical therapy for venous insufficiency in postmenopausal women.” Complementary therapies in medicine 20, no. 5 (2012): 291-298.
11. Anderson, Rodney U., David Wise, Timothy Sawyer, and Christine Chan. “Integration of myofascial trigger point release and paradoxical relaxation training treatment of chronic pelvic pain in men.” The Journal of urology 174, no. 1 (2005): 155-160.
12. Ajimsha, M. S., D. Binsu, and S. Chithra. “Effectiveness of myofascial release in the management of plantar heel pain: a randomized controlled trial.” The Foot 24, no. 2 (2014): 66-71.
13. Schroeder, Allison N., and Thomas M. Best. “Is self myofascial release an effective preexercise and recovery strategy? A literature review.” Current sports medicine reports 14, no. 3 (2015): 200-208.
14. Hughes, Mary. “Myofascial Release (MFR): An Overview” Hospital for Special Surgery. 2012

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.