By Peter J. van Twuyver, DPT, MPT, OCS
Myofascial Release (MFR) is an osteopathic term which refers to the use of the hands for the stretching and mobilization of muscle and fascia. The intention of MFR is to remove or “release” adhesions or restrictions in soft tissue to restore mobility and function. Adhesions in soft tissue can occur from inactivity, trauma, and poor posture. As it turns out, Myofascial Release has been around since 400 BC, during the time of Hippocrates. Physicians in Greece would frequently use their own brand of myofascial techniques on wrestlers who frequently got hurt from the nature of their sport.
I studied Myofascial Release as part of my Doctoral Studies at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in St. Augustine, FL. Although I learned massage and joint mobilization in physical therapy school, I found that myofascial release gives patients that “ahhhhhh” moment. Since muscles get tight from use and/or disuse, it just made sense to me to make MFR an important part of my treatment sessions.
With MFR, clinicians can get very creative to get the job done. I use a variety of techniques to release restrictions and to reduce or abolish muscle-generated pain. For example, inhibitive pressure is when you apply pressure to a muscle to cause it to relax, and it is also superb at working out those muscle knots. Distraction is a static stretch on a muscle that can also cause relaxation but also an increase in the flexibility of the muscle. Cross friction is going “against the grain” of the muscle, especially if there are adhesions to other muscles or facial tissue that connect to the muscle. Once you find the right techniques and the patient responds to them well, the patient can frequently learn to do self-MFR on themselves for prevention of recurrence.
Perhaps my favorite set of MFR techniques is what I call the “Stretch-Out.” This is a 30 minute session where I stretch the patient’s neck, back, arms and legs on a massage table using a variety of hands-on techniques. The client is fully clothed, making it an ideal session right after a tough work-out or if you are feeling sore after an activity.
MFR is the perfect way to take your body’s flexibility to the next level and to release the “stuck”.