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Myofascial Release

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Myofascial Release is a form of massage therapy that involves stretching and manipulating connective tissue or fascia of the body. This is done through mild sustained pressure from the therapist's hands to the fascia. This works to reduce tension and soften the tissue. Fascia is unique, in that it covers and connects all of the body's muscles and bones and can store memories of physical trauma. Because of this relationship with the body, trauma, inflammation, scarring and repetitive stress can cause tightening of the fascia — resulting in abnormal pressure on other parts of the body (e.g. nerves, vessels, organs). Myofascial Release works to release these tensions and knots. This therapy is commonly used to treat recurring sports injuries, scoliosis, headaches, neck and back pain, recurring emotional and physical pain, as well as to increase flexibility and mobility.

There are two main types of Myofascial Release: Direct and Indirect. In Direct Myofasical Release the practitioner works directly on the affected fascia using knuckles and elbows with high force to stretch the fascia. The direct method falls into the category of deep tissue work. It works to actually change the structure of the fascia through stretching, pulling, and releasing adhesions. It is believed that the direct method developed out of Osteopathic manipulation techniques and Rolfing. It has traditionally only been taught in Physical Therapy programs, however since the 1990s its teaching has been expanded to other body-workers.

The second form, Indirect Myofascial Release, is a more gentle stretch with lighter applied pressure. The focus is to allow the body to "self-correct" and for the fascia to unwind itself. Its origin is also in Osteopathic Medicine, as well as in techniques developed by Elizabeth Dicke, a German physiotherapist. It is taught and practiced by a wide variety of body-workers, including physical therapists, massage therapists and Osteopathic Physicians (DO).

Author: Bronwyn Bacon, ND Candidate '09


Myofascial Release

American Massage Therapy Association

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