Myofascial release is a non-invasive, gentle hands-on soft tissue technique that works on the fascia to release restrictions. The technique involves applying a gentle stretch to the restricted fascia until resistance is felt. Sustained pressure is then applied for 90-120 seconds or more until the therapist senses the first myofascial releases, which are sometimes accompanied by heat and reddening of the skin as blow flow is restored. As these releases occur the therapist can follow the trail of further restrictions until the tissue becomes softer and more pliable. These releases take the pressure off pain sensitive structures such as nerves and blood vessels, and restore alignment and mobility to muscles and joints.
Myofascial release is a technique that has been developed by medical doctors, osteopaths and physiotherapists since the 1940s. One of the most well known is physio John Barnes, who says ‘release of the pressure of the fascial system … creates a free mobile environment of [these] pain-sensitive structures, producing consistent results in relieving pain and restoring functional mobility.’
Scientifically, myofascial release has been shown to work at cellular level. And clinical trials have demonstrated the effectiveness of myofascial release in alleviating plantar heel pain, pain from systemic sclerosis, and pain and other ‘quality of life’ problems associated with fibromyalgia. MFR has also been shown to be effective in increasing a range of shoulder movements, and in aiding heart and blood pressure recovery after high intensity exercise.
Myofascial release has been described as ‘the medicine of the 21st century’ although more research is desperately needed to maximise what we believe is its potential.