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What is Myofascial Release Massage?
Myofascial release is a massage therapy system of techniques involving a gentle stretching process, often using two hands to engage and stretch the fascia and move with it according to its inclinations, as sensed by the hands. Fascial work is often a very helpful precursor to the specific muscle treatment of various massage therapy techniques. Fascial work warms and stimulates the tissue and gives the muscle more freedom to expand during treatment.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is a Latin word meaning “band” or “bandage”. It is the most pervasive type of tissue in the body. Fascia is the infrastructure of the body. Fascia not only gives the body its form, both inside and out, but also provides the scaffolding for all of the other systems of the body, such as circulatory, nervous, and lymphatic systems. Fascia might be considered the “skeleton” of soft tissues.
Why is myofascial release therapy important?
The pervasiveness and interconnectedness of fascia throughout the body creates a situation in which restriction in one part of the body can affect other parts as well. A metaphor often used to describe the fascia is a knitted sweater. Because all of the threads of yarn are connected, a pull in one section of the sweater may cause a pull in a spot distant from the original, or distortion of the shape of the entire sweater. Similarly, the distortion of the fascial tissues often creates the pain and discomfort that causes people to seek a massage therapy treatment. Because of the vastness of myofascial tissue in the body, creating positive change in the fascia simultaneously creates positive change in the whole body.
What is myofascial release therapy like?
Myofascial release techniques involve the slow, horizontal stretching of tissues and are generally applied using little, if any, massage cream or oil. Massage therapists are able to feel subtle restrictions in the movement of fascial tissues and the “letting go” or “melting” that occurs as the fascia stretches and becomes softer. The stretching of tissues and the heat from the massage therapists’ hands are thought to help produce a softer consistency of fascial tissues, which allows them to elongate more easily. As the tissues stretch, tight bands within the tissues are freed. The pain and discomfort within the body is then reduced.
Oftentimes, myofascial release is incorporated into other types of massage therapy treatment. For example, it can be used to warm up the tissue for Swedish massage or trigger point therapy. Specific myofascial massage therapy techniques include:
- Myofascial glide- Gentle traction of the skin/fascia;
- Skin rolling- Skin/fascia is picked up and pulled away from underlying tissue;
- Pin and stretch- Skin/fascia is “pinned” near a joint as the joint is mobilized;
- Pincer and knead- Skin/fascia is picked up, held to allow warming, and kneaded;
- “Dry” petrissage- Skin/ fascia is kneaded like dough without lotion;
- Sustained stretch- Skin/fascia is anchored and stretched in opposite direction from anchor; and
- “C” and “S” strokes- “C” and “S” formations are created in skin/fascia with therapists fingers.