Myofascial release (MFR) is a collection of approaches and techniques that focuses on freeing restrictions of movement that originate in the soft tissues of the body. The benefits of this work are diverse. Direct bodily effects range from alleviation of pain, improvement of athletic performance, and greater flexibility and ease of movement to more subjective concerns such as better posture. More indirect goals include emotional release, deep relaxation, or general feelings of connection and well-being. Rather than being a specific technique, MFR is better understood as a goal-oriented approach to working with tissue-based restrictions and their two-way interactions with movement and posture.
The umbrella of MFR methods focuses heavily on how postural habits, specific activities or lack of activity, and compensations for prior injuries result in chronic stress and avoidance of full range of movements. These in turn result in both shortening of muscular units and adhesions between layers of fascia. Fascia forms the passive structural definition of our bodies. Adhesions are places in which separate fascial layers or fibers have bonded together dysfunctionally. The application of controlled and focused force, applied in a purposeful direction, acts to stretch or elongate the muscular and fascial (myofascial) structures toward the goals of restoring the fluid/lubricative quality of the fascial tissue, the mobility of tissue, and normal joint function.
For those of you who are visual learners, you can imagine your skin is like the rind of an orange. So, if your skin is the outer layer of the orange peel, the thicker, white, fibrous layer that lies almost immediately beneath the peel would be your fascia. Just as that thicker layer completely surrounds the inside of the orange, the same holds true to your fascia. We all have a layer of fascia directly beneath the skin that completely envelopes the body, giving another protective barrier between the skin and the deeper soft tissue.
More in depth
Myofascial". To understand this interesting word, let's break it down. 'Myo' means muscle and 'fascia' is the connective tissue that is found throughout our body. Fascia is a densely woven substance that surrounds and penetrates every muscle, bone, artery, vein and nerve as well as every organ of the body. Fascia that is found within the muscle unit, runs throughout the muscle fiber. Fascia also connects our muscles to our bones. This collagenous fiber is normally soft and pliable but can become restricted, tight, hardened or thickened (as in scar tissue). When this happens, it can restrict the movement of muscles and the bones to which they are attached. When movement becomes limited to any degree, the body will compensate in an attempt to bring balance back to our overall system. This compensation can cause further stress and strain and often results in increased pain. Restricted fascia can even impair the flow of hydration, nourishment, and oxygen into our tissues and cells while inhibiting the release of cellular wastes and trapped toxins from within and around these cells. This can impact the function of organs in areas where restrictions are located. Because fascia is one continuous structure that exists from head to toe, restrictions can become like a pull in a sweater. As fiber is tugged in once place, tightened strands of fascial tissue can put tension on other areas of the body.
Accidents, scarring, trauma, inflammation, repeated postural stresses and/or surgery can create myofascial restrictions that can produce pressures of up to 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures. This can impose a “straight-jacket” of force, which may cause pain, headaches, anxiety and other symptoms. Myofascial Release is a safe and very effective manual therapy that involves applying gentle, sustained pressure into the myofascial connective tissue restrictions. As gentle pressure is applied slowly, the fascia begins to “release” or elongate. This amazing hands-on technique helps to soften and open up (or "release") these restricted areas, eliminating pain, restoring motion and improving function.
Fascia holds your posture. This is why your neck feels more comfortable in a forward position after driving or sitting at a desk for long periods of time.