A Patient’s Guide to Understanding Myofascial Release
Simple Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
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What is myofascial release?
I am about to give a very quick and limited explanation of myofascial release (MFR). To get a more thorough understanding of MFR, please refer to the many articles and books John has written. In these you will find the references to and scientific rational for true MFR. In this book, I hope to give you a basic understanding that can help you explain MFR to your patients and colleagues.
True MFR is a full-body, hands on technique developed and refined by John F. Barnes, PT. This technique releases the fascial system, a three dimensional web connecting and surrounding every system and cell in the body. To help people get the idea of the role of the fascial system, I like to compare the human body to an orange.
Outer layer: The thick, white, hard tissue that attaches an orange to the peel is similar to the fascia that holds the skin to our body.
Inner layer: When you cut an orange in half, the white fibers separate the different chambers of the orange. Fascia in our body helps to separate our organs and keep them in place. If it didn’t, when we stood up, all our organs would drop down into our legs!
Cellular layer: When you look at an individual orange slice, you see the white fibers weaving throughout the slice, holding the slice together and also holding in the juice. Again, this is very similar to the fascial system holding our bodies together down to the cellular level. Our bodies are over 70% fluid and the fascial system is what keeps all this fluid (along with all the vital organs, nerves, veins, and arteries) in the right place.
Through trauma and repetitive motion or positioning (lifting all day or sitting all day), restrictions can form in the fascial system. These restrictions can exert forces up to 2000 pounds per square inch. This force can literally crush any of the vital structures near it. Since the fascial system runs throughout your entire body, these restrictions can cause pain anywhere in the body and compromise any system.
By “system,” I mean vascular, neurological, muscular, reproductive, circulatory, digestive, etc. Fascial restrictions can cause digestive problems, fertility problems, circulation problems, neurological problems, cellular problems, muscular problems, etc. These restrictions can become tighter over time, leaving you feeling like you are in a straitjacket and sending symptoms throughout your body.
MFR helps to remove the straitjacket from the body. A skilled therapist looks at and treats the entire body, helping to restore balance. Releasing the fascial restrictions throughout the body decreases the crushing force of fascial restrictions, which in turn increases function, decreases pain, increases blood flow and nutrition to the body, and increases overall health down to the cellular level.
Fascial restrictions cannot be seen by x-ray or any other standard imaging technology. However, by developing sensitivity through taking courses and being treated, a skilled MFR therapist can see and feel where these fascial restrictions are located. A MFR treatment consists of engaging the barrier of the restriction and then waiting, allowing the restriction to release.
The barrier is the point at which the fascial restriction is in a lengthened or slightly stretched position. This is different from the end range of motion; it’s more like taking the slack out of the system. Once the therapist engages the restriction at the barrier, it then needs to be held there for a minimum of 90-120 seconds before it starts to release.
For a good release to occur, the restriction needs to be held at the barrier at least 3-5 minutes. If the therapist holds the restriction at the barrier for a shorter time, he is not doing authentic MFR and is not allowing the tissue to make a permanent change. Anything less does not involve the collagen component and works on only the elastic part—fascia is roughly 80% collagen and 20% elastic— and provides only temporary relief.
True MFR is not forceful. The body is allowed to release, not forced to release. This does not mean the releases will not be painful. Pain and many other sensations often occur during a release. This is described more completely in the following chapters. What is important is following these guidelines when you are performing MFR:
• look at and treat the entire body;
• engage the barrier and do not force though the barrier;
• hold for at least 3-5 minutes to allow for a true release to occur;
• do not force or lead the patient; and
• do not interpret what the patient is feeling. Each person’s experience is unique to him or her.
If you do not follow these guidelines, then you have an incomplete understanding of the principles of MFR. Some therapists take one or two classes from John—or take a class in school—and believe they are doing MFR, but they don’t really get the key factors. This is why it’s important to repeat seminars and get treated yourself by a skilled therapist. If you have questions or need a reminder about something, remember the MFR chat line is a great resource, available on John’s website at: www.myofascialrelease.com. This is a nice support system and a really good way to have questions answered and concerns addressed.
So, get ready for your adventure with MFR. If you are looking for true, authentic healing, you have come to the right place!
This book is a great resource for anyone in the healthcare profession or anyone who facilities the healing process. It is especially helpful for body workers and therapists. It gives simple answers that can help both therapists and patients with their understanding of the healing process in general, and also helps with more specific questions about myofascial release.
Some of the questions are: what is myofascial release? How is myofascial release different from other techniques? What can myofascial release help with?
The answers given are simple, concise, and will help with an overall understanding of the healing process, which can then allow for faster and more significant results.
About the Author
Not only is Cathy a physical therapist, but she is also someone who suffered from debilitating chronic pain for years. This is what led her to trying myofasical release as a treatment option.
Once she realized that myofascial release was the missing piece that was able to help with her overall healing, she began taking the classes offered by John F. Barnes, PT. She quickly realized that this technique was extremely effective. And that by learning this technique she would not only be able to help herself, but also help her clients.
Cathy had the opportunity to work at one of John’s treatment centers for over two years which has helped her become an expert in the field of myofascial release.
This book is a compilation of simple answers to the questions that are most frequently asked by patients and therapists. It is a very valuable tool in the healing process.