How Myofascial Release Could Relieve Your Pain

Deep inside your muscles, wrapped around your nerves and nestled next to your bones is a protective layer of tissue called the fascia. Myo is a prefix that means, "related to muscle." Myofascia's job is to protect and help your muscles, nerves and bones to glide, move and function in harmony with each other. When a body sustains injury, surgery, inflammation, illness or prolonged damage, the fluid flexibility of the fascia can be compromised. It may develop scar tissue or adhesions and lose its ability to move or hold bone, muscle and nerve tissue in proper alignment. The result can be loss of mobility and pain both in the immediate area of injury and other parts of the body.  

Myofascial Release is a physical therapy and massage technique. A trained therapist identifies areas of myofascial restriction by placing his hands on the patient's muscles and sensing areas of tension. Then, he applies pressure and a variety of pushing/pulling maneuvers, which allow or force myofascial tissue to unwind and relax. This can encourage body fluids to surge back into the area and can break up scar tissue that may be binding nerves and muscles into painful positions. 

Many patients with chronic pain, including those with fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, low back pain, and shoulder pain are finding relief from the pain, fatigue and mood disorders associated with their conditions after receiving myofascial release therapy.

Several studies support myofascial release therapy as beneficial for reducing pain, anxiety, and fatigue and increasing mobility. One study, conducted by the Department of Nursing and Physical Therapy at the University of Almeria in Spain followed 74 patients with fibromyalgia for 20 weeks to determine whether massage-myofascial release therapy could improve their pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life. Study participants were randomly assigned to either a myofascial release group or a placebo group. Pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life were determined at baseline, after the last treatment session, and at one month and six months. Immediately after treatment and at 1 month, anxiety levels, quality of sleep, pain, and quality of life were improved in the experimental group over the placebo group. At six months, there was no significant difference in quality of sleep between the myofascial release and placebo groups, but the myofascial release group continued to experience less pain and better quality of life.

Another study released by the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Miami observed a 54-year-old woman with rheumatoid arthritis and collagenous colitis who received six sessions of myofascial release therapy and showed improvements in pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal tract function, cervical range of motion, and quality of life. Therapy benefits lasted five weeks and when additional sessions of myofascial release were provided, continued for another five weeks.

Myofascial release therapy might provide relief for many types of pain and mobility issues including sports injuries, post-surgical complications and a wide variety of chronic pain conditions. It's a time consuming process that requires several therapeutic sessions, with each session lasting about an hour. Most patients find the technique very relaxing, much like other types of massage therapy. Some may experience mild fatigue or achiness following therapy, but otherwise, there appear to be no significant adverse side effects. 

Ask your physician, acupuncturist, massage or physical therapist to recommend an experienced myofascial release therapist in your area and find out what this gentle, but effective treatment can do for you.



US National Library of Medicine

National Institutes of Health

Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2011;4(3):1-9. Epub 2011 Sep 30.

Sustained release myofascial release as treatment for a patient with complications of rheumatoid arthritis and collagenous colitis: a case report.

Cubick EE, Quezada VY, Schumer AD, Davis CM.

Department of Physical Therapy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, USA.

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:561753. Epub 2010 Dec 28.

Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia.

Castro-Sánchez AM, Matarán-Peñarrocha GA, Granero-Molina J, Aguilera-Manrique G, Quesada-Rubio JM, Moreno-Lorenzo C.

Department of Nursing and Physical Therapy, University of Almería (UAL), 04120 Almería, Spain.