If you check out Wikipedia’s definition of myofascial release you’ll find it says, “Myofascial release (MFR, self-myofascial release) is an alternative medicine therapy that claims to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles.”
While I agree with that definition, I think it could be expanded upon that it’s usually a hands-on technique (in my experience hands-on is the most effective), and it’s generally safe and effective when done by a trained professional. Too many people are afraid of big words they don’t understand, but with a little research can put their mind at ease.
Because it’s too big of a topic for just this blog post, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide some basic information that would stimulate you to research further if it’s something you’re interested in.
MFR Quick Facts:
• Corrects muscle imbalances
• Increases joint range of motion
• Decreases muscle soreness and relieves joint stress
• Increases extensibility of musculotendinous (the area of the joint where tendon attaches to bone) junction
• Increases neuromuscular efficiency
Myofascia is the connective tissue (fascia) that’s interwoven into muscles (myo).
What is Myofascia though?
Myofascia is the connective tissue (fascia) that’s interwoven into muscles (myo). Many people think of it as a kind of muscle casing, but I think it’s better thought of as the threads of a sweater where pulling on one end influences the surrounding tissue. It interpenetrates the muscles, bones, arteries & veins, and internal organs. Your fascia can be thought of as the connective sweater thread throughout your body, myofascial is the tissue specific to your muscles. The cobwebby stuff in the image here is the myofascia.
Forms of Myofascial Release
As I said in the intro, I believe hands-on release by a trained professional is the most effective, but it’s also not realistic to expect everyone to have access to, or be able to afford, consistent therapy. So there are also implements that can aid in MFR: foam rollers, tennis/lacrosse balls, and massage sticks.
Rules of Myofascial Release from Anatomy Trains
Anatomy Trains is a gold-standard book for manual and movement therapists. The book is a must-read for professionals who specialize in body movement/ training the body. To expand on the sweater analogy, the book has a few main rules to help understand the concept:
- Tracks proceed in a consistent direction without interruption – think of railways connected throughout the entire body, and just like railways they must go straight or have gradual changes in direction.
- These tracks are tacked down at bony ‘stations’ or attachments – this is where muscle or tendon is fixed to bone.
- Tracks join and diverge in ‘switches’ and the occasional ‘roundhouse’ – again think of railways how they have track switches and round houses where a bunch of lines meet.
Again, I realize this is a HUGE topic for just a small blog post but I think it’s important to explore the various modalities out there. This post is in no way meant to be all inclusive or a deep dive into MFR, but I hope it serves as an introduction that motivates you to learn more about how the body works and moves.