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Myofascial release

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Related terms
Background
Theory/evidence
Bibliography
Technique
Update information

Related Terms
  • Acutherapy, myofascial release, myotherapy, MFR therapy, soft tissue mobilization.

Background
  • Myofascial release involves a gentle form of stretching and compression. The therapy, also known as soft tissue mobilization or MFR, releases the uneven tightness in injured fascia. Fascia is the dense, tough tissue that surrounds and covers the body's organs, muscles and bones.
  • In the normal healthy state the fascia is relaxed and soft, and it can stretch without restriction. However, following physical trauma or inflammation, fascia loses its pliability, and it becomes a sense of tension throughout the body.
  • Myofascial release is different from massage, which focuses on muscles. This approach is thought to treat the causes of pain, not just the symptoms.

Theory / Evidence
  • There is little scientific evidence to support MFR for medical conditions. However, one study found that myofascial release combined with electrical current improved pain and neck flexibility in people with neck and shoulder pain.
  • Myofascial release has been used to improve the health of the muscles and fascia, improve circulation and restore good posture. It has been used to treat back strain, chronic back pain, low back pain, thoracic back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic cervical pain, complex pain complaints, dizziness, vertigo, fibromyalgia, fibrositis, headache, myofascial pain dysfunction, plantar fasciitis, post polio symptoms, thoracic outlet syndrome, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, trigger points, tender points, and whiplash.

Bibliography
  1. American Cancer Society.
  2. Hou CR, Tsai LC, Cheng KF, Chung KC, Hong CZ. Immediate effects of various physical therapeutic modalities on cervical myofascial pain and trigger-point sensitivity. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2002 Oct;83(10):1406-14.

Technique
  • Each MFR technique contains the same components. The physical therapist finds the area of tightness. A light stretch is applied to the tight area. The physical therapist waits for the tissue to relax and then increases the stretch. The process is repeated until the area is fully relaxed. Then, the next area is stretched.
  • The therapist is guided by feedback he feels from the patient's body. This feedback tells the therapist how much force to use, the direction of the stretch and how long to stretch. Small areas of muscle are stretched at a time. Sometimes the therapist uses only two fingers to stretch a small part of a muscle.
  • The therapist will be able to find sore spots just by feel. Often, patients are unable to pinpoint some sore spots or have grown used to them until the physical therapist finds them. The size and sensitivity of these sore spots, called myofascial trigger points, will decrease with treatment.
  • Overall, myofascial release is a gentle therapy. Some patients fall asleep during treatment or take a nap afterwards.
  • Physical therapists often practice myofascial release, but it may also be offered by osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, and others who are trained in this method.
  • Progress is measured by a decrease in the patient's pain and by an improvement in overall posture.

Update information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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