Nov 17th, 2021
I remember the first time I received a myofascial release massage. It was an entirely different experience from any massage I had felt before and afterward. It completely changed my experience of being in my body both physically and emotionally. It was as though someone had power washed my emotional baggage from the last few years!
So what's the difference between the myofascial release technique and other massage techniques?
As a myofascial release therapist, I often forget that many people have no idea what myofascial technique is. Hopefully, this will shed some light and open you up to the wondrous aspect of the human body that is fascia and why we want to keep it healthy.
The word myofascial pertains to the fascia surrounding muscles. Fascia is the biological fabric that enables us to move.
Like all fabrics, it can be stiff and hard-wearing like gaffer tape, structural or soft and cushioning like a pillow or sheer and floaty like chiffon, and it contains way more receptors than our muscles do. If you feel tight, it could well be the fascia that you are feeling rather than the muscle tissue.
The myofascial release technique is performed on dry skin, free from oils and lotion using slow and sustained pressure with the massage therapist's hands. It can take between 90 secs to 5 mins of sustained pressure for the fascia or myofascia to release and feels very different to the client compared with massages using oils.
There are so many benefits to this technique but here are my top 5.
1) Lived experience in the body.
Once we start to think about our fascia as the 3-dimensional fabric, we can picture how it would feel wearing a bodysuit one size too small all day every day and how this would impact our lived experience of moving around. Compare that to a perfectly tailored, smooth elastic bodysuit. That is what our fascia can affect, our lived experience in the body. Using myofascial release technique can maintain or improve the healthy texture of the fascia. Conversely, a restricted bodysuit can affect our energy levels and the movement available for our nerves and organs.
2) Organ of proprioception
Our brain knows where our tissue restrictions are (via receptors in the fascia) that would cause us to feel discomfort. It then alters our posture and the way we walk (the way we move essentially) to make movement more energy efficient. Moving is one of our natural ways of keeping the fascia healthy, so if we sit at a desk all day with the shoulders always rounded forward, the joint never gets taken through its full range of motion. When we decide to lift weights, play tennis, or do yoga, our brain tries to keep our posture in the familiar rounded forward shoulder position. We are completely unaware that our brain is directing our movement in this way. So the joint misses its full range of motion (even when we are 'exercising') and the fascial input needed for health. Over time, this compounds restriction until one day we may feel pain in our shoulder. A myofascial release therapist can help guide the nervous system to more optimal fascial tension for joint health, in addition to exercises to maintain a more balanced tension pattern for the shoulder.
3) Pain-free movement.
As I mentioned earlier, our fascia or biological fabric enables movement. Thin layers of fascia (with a filmy liquid texture) allow muscles to slide past each other. When the fascia isn't moved and loaded in different planes of movement, the film-like layers become less filmy and tacky and eventually crystalline. They may also adhere to other structures. Not so great for our movement potential. As I mentioned in number 2, our brain adjusts how we move so that we aren't aware of our restricted areas. When moving a joint is painful, it's going to be hard to train the tissues around it because of our nervous system's defence mechanism. That is where a myofascial release therapist can help. If restrictions put pressure on the nerves, pain can be experienced. By improving the texture and fluidity of the fascia, the layers can glide over each other rather than create compaction onto nerves.
4) Water delivery to cells
So we see fascia health has an important impact on our lived experience, ease, and comfort during movement.
When viewed under a microscope, just like fabric, the fascia can be viewed as tiny gelatinous-like threads. It is along these threads that water trickles to where we want it…. our cells. How healthy the fascia is will impact this delivery. Gummy, tacky, crystalline fascia will affect cellular health, including nerve cell health in the surrounding tissues. Dehydration also affects slide potential for the fascia, muscles, organs, and nerves.
5) The fascia is sensory
If we carry ourselves through life burdened with anger or a sense of being unsafe, the muscles and fascia have a holding and hardening quality. The emotional release after a myofascial release session can impact our sense of being. Essentially, lifting the weight of our worries.
In my opinion, that is my top benefit of seeing a myofascial release therapist.
Many people have never had an experience of not being tense. It is their default holding pattern. Muscles may be unconsciously gripping. There is a general tense ready for action quality to the body. Great for short periods. It enables us to get things done. When this is our perpetual way of being, it's not so great. It creates inflammation in the body which leads to pressure on our nerves and pain. The more the body has a sense of not being switched on and in a state of go go go, the nervous system becomes aware that this is an option for 'existing'. In turn, it decreases inflammation and pain. When the body is in its rested state, natural healing resumes.
So that's it, my top five benefits of myofascial release technique and how it can help you to feel more comfortable skin.
If you are now eager to experience a myofascial release massage for yourself and are looking for a myofascial release therapist in West Oxfordshire or the Cotswolds, I offer treatments in the small village of Alvescot, near to Witney, Burford, and Carterton.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you are as excited about myofascial release now as I am. Feel free to share this article so that your friends and family can learn about the fabulous benefits of myofasical release technique awell.