How Does Myofascial Release Work?

If you don’t know what fascia is, try reading the article “What Is Fascia?” first.

When we get injured, tissues in our bodies get irritated, compressed, torn, and severed.  This can happen from repetitive stress, direct trauma, and surgery.  Our bodies respond to injury by adding scar tissue fibers to help patch up the injured areas.  The body also responds with inflammation in the injured area for as long as the tissue signals that it is “stressed”.  If an injury is pretty minor it will heal fairly quickly and the inflammation will go away.  In larger injuries, and especially in chronic injury and stress, the inflammation will go on and on.  This leads to the fascia becoming dehydrated and the ground substance starts to solidify.  As this dehydration goes on, the fabric of the fascia is harder to move and even starts to retract — putting ever increasing pressure and tension on both the local tissues and the structure of the body as a whole.  This causes decreased movement, dysfunction of the related tissues, and especially pain.

Myofascial Release works by adding sustained and gentle pressure into the tight and dehydrated fascial tissue.  After 1 ½ to 2 minutes of sustained pressure the ground substance of that tissue softens and begins to absorb water, re-hydrating itself.  Once the ground substance re-hydrates enough, it again become grease-like and the fibers of the fascia can move and rearrange back from their retracted and pressurized state to a loose and normal condition.  As the tension is taken out of the tissue, blood and extracellular fluid is more easily able to flow through the region allowing the tissues to get the nutrition that they need to heal and function normally.

As one section of restricted fascia softens, the therapist sinks into the tissues just far enough to pressurize the next band of tight fascia, and then waits for that tissue to release as well.  As you continue working in an area of the body, the release of tension spreads outward and deeper into the tissues.  This is why most techniques are held for 5 or more minutes.  Once enough progress has been made in one area, the therapist moves on to another area of restriction that needs treatment.  As the abnormal pulls and tensions within the body are softened and released, the structure of the body moves back into a more balanced alignment.  With this release of tension and greater balance within the structure, the body moves with ease and feels light and “alive”.

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