Search

What Is Myofascial Release? What Are the Benefits and Methods? It Could End Your Chronic Pain

Guest Post written by Yukari Yasui

 

Chronic pain is ruining your daily life.


You’ve been to doctors, incorporated new exercises into your day, and even tried various stretches from YouTube promising you pain relief.


Sure, some worked.

Only for a short time.


But that same pain… keeps coming back.


You just don’t know what to do.

And you are desperate — to be free from the pain, endless research, and the stress.


When you think about living like this for the rest of your life, you feel miserable.


You know you could achieve so much more without chronic pain haunting you.


Have you heard of fascia? How about myofascial release?


That, my friend, could be your solution.


If you are not familiar with fascia — an often neglected system in your body — keep reading! You’ll learn where your pain may be coming from, how unhealthy fascia affects your health, and how to regain healthy fascia.


What Is Fascia?

Fascia is soft connecting tissue holding everything in your body together.


It’s around bones, organs, muscles, and nerves to name a few. It’s a single three-dimensional spider-web-like network going through all parts of your body — from the top of your head to the bottom of your toes. Without it, your body would collapse.


Fascia works like an elastic band and also as a lubricant in your body. It’s what allows you to move smoothly, stretch, and absorb shocks.


When fascia is healthy, you have a full range of motion. But the fascia could dry out due to lack of movements, overuse, injury, or any other reasons for inflammation, such as poor diet. When that happens, the layers of fascia stick together and lose their ability to move smoothly and extend to their fullest capacity.


We call the fascia sticking together a fascial adhesion. You experience this as knots and stiffness in your body.


Why Is It Crucial to Maintain Healthy Fascia?

Remember, fascia is a single network.


What happens when a part loses its mobility? Other parts try to compensate. Over time, the parts compensating get overused and you experience pain in those seemingly unrelated areas.


For example, let’s say your glutes have a fascial adhesion, and it shows up as lower back pain. You try massaging the lower back, and you temporarily get some relief. But if you are not paying attention to your glutes — the source, in this case — your lower back pain will eventually come back.


Similarly, a fascial adhesion can pull bones out of place. Your quads could have a fascial adhesion and pull your knee cap slightly out of place, causing knee pain.



Problems caused by unhealthy fascia include:

  • Poor blood circulation

  • Pinched nerves

  • Headache; migraine; brain fog

  • Muscle pain

  • Joint pain

  • Poor posture

  • Shallow breathing

  • Poor digestion

  • Poor sleep

  • Fatigue


All these problems are intertwined and can compound on each other.


For example, a fascial adhesion in a muscle causes a tight muscle. A tight muscle slows blood flow and can pull bones out of alignment — leading to poor posture. With poor posture, your lungs don’t expand fully, making your breathing shallow. Poor blood flow and shallow breathing can delay healing of daily damage and add stress to your body — leaving you tired day after day.


Do you see how a fascial adhesion can easily spiral into a negative cycle?

And you may have never thought those problems were related to your physical pain.


It’s easy even for healthcare professionals to miss the real source of your pain.


So, you get why maintaining a healthy fascia system is crucial for your health. Now, let’s see how we can knock those fascial adhesions out of your life!


What Is Myofascial Release?

We covered what fascia is. Now, what is myofascia? “Myo” means “relating to muscles.” So myofascia is simply fascia connected to muscles. Easy enough, right?


Then, what is myofascial release? Myofascial release uses gentle and prolonged pressure to trigger points. The pressure stretches and “releases” the fascial adhesion — letting the fascia return to its optimal length and pliability.


Trigger points, also called myofascial trigger points, are the source of your pain. When pressed upon, you experience pain locally and in other areas of your body. There are primary and secondary trigger points. Primary trigger point is basically the first myofascial adhesion formed. Secondary trigger points develop from compensating for restricted movements caused by the primary trigger point.


Let’s say you are sitting in front of a computer typing away and using a mouse for hours. And your arms are not hanging straight down from your shoulders. Your arm muscles get overworked — forming fascial adhesions in your arms. This is the primary trigger point.


Due to this tightness in your arms, your shoulder muscles are forced to work in an unnatural way to support your arms — causing them to overwork and forming fascial adhesions in your shoulders. These are the secondary trigger points.


You notice knots and tightness in your shoulders and try massaging. But you aren’t getting much relief. This is because you are neglecting the primary trigger point — the fascial adhesions in your arms.


Myofascial release aims to relieve pain and help you regain full range of motion — getting your body moving and feeling the way it’s designed to.


How would your day look without chronic pain?


When you wake up, you feel rejuvenated and have more energy — ready to take on life. Stress carried on your shoulders is lifted. Your head is clear. Your body feels light.


You notice more space opening up mentally, energetically, and emotionally. You are calmer, happier, and pain-free.


Without pain, what would you do with your day? With your life?


Methods and Tools for Myofascial Release

There are different ways to achieve myofascial release. Some are done by professionals and some can be done by you at home.


Before trying myofascial release, it’s important to see a professional to make sure your chronic pain is not caused by something else. And to ensure myofascial release is safe for your body.



  1. Myofascial Release Massage

This is performed by massage therapists and chiropractors who specialize in myofascial release. Physical therapists may also use this type of massage.


They start by asking you what discomforts you are experiencing. Then, they look for tender areas on your body. By applying pressure to possible trigger points and seeing how your body reacts, they’re able to find primary trigger points and release the tension there. They may ask you to move your joints in a specific way while they apply pressure. In some areas and conditions, this achieves a better release and is called dynamic myofascial release.


  1. Cupping

This is also called myofascial decompression. It’s done by licensed acupuncturists, or massage therapists and physical therapists who are certified in cupping.


This method uses round cups and suction to create negative pressure on your skin. The negative pressure improves blood circulation and stretches then releases fascial adhesions. In static cupping, the cups are left on your skin for approximately 3 to 15 minutes. In sliding or gliding cupping, the practitioner moves the cup over the targeted area to create a massage-like effect. You should know cupping leaves bruise-like marks, but these should heal on their own.


  1. Superficial and Deep Acupuncture

This is done by licensed acupuncturists, and uses sterile hair-thin metal needles. The thin needles are inserted through your skin to stimulate specific points on your body. The inserted needles may be manipulated by heat, mild electric currency, or gentle manual movement or rotation. The insertion depth varies depending on the insertion points and angle — approximately ⅛” to ⅜” for superficial, and ⅜” to a few inches for deep acupuncture.


Both superficial and deep acupuncture on myofascial trigger points are effective in reducing pain. But deep acupuncture seems to be more effective, especially for lasting results. In both methods, when done consistently, you should find your pain level decreases with each session.


  1. Gua Sha

This is a traditional Chinese technique, and also called “scraping'' in English. Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is the westernized version of Gua Sha. This is performed by physical therapists, chiropractors, and some massage therapists.


They use a specialized tool, made out of stone or stainless steel, with smooth edges that contour to different parts of your body. During this procedure, the practitioner glides the tool against your skin in a repeated manner. Gua Sha encourages blood circulation, lymphatic drainage, and myofascial release. This method leaves red rash-like tiny dots on your skin. But don’t be alarmed — they should fade away in a few days.


  1. Self-Myofascial Release

This is myofascial release done by you, not by professionals. There are various tools for myofascial release you can use at home to achieve this.


A foam roller is a popular option. You place the tight area of your body on top of and against a foam roller on the ground. Then, you use your body weight to press and roll.


A massage stick is like a handheld version of a foam roller. You simply roll on a desired area using your arm strength.


A massage ball can go deeper into tight fascia because of the smaller surface area. You either place the massage ball on the floor or against a wall. Using your body weight, you press into the tight fascia, and you can roll the ball around or hold for 30 seconds.


A massage gun is a more expensive option. It’s battery-powered and uses percussion — delivering strong pulses and vibration to your fascia. It usually comes with different attachment heads. You can use it over a broad area with a massage ball like attachment or target specific points with a smaller attachment.


Why Get Myofascial Release Massages When You Can Do Self-Myofascial Release At Home?

It’s a great idea to use a combination of both, especially when you are first familiarizing yourself with myofascial release and your trigger points.


You know where the pain and discomfort tend to show up in your body. But it’s difficult to locate the sources yourself.


Remember: You need to tackle the primary trigger points; otherwise, the pain will come back. It’s difficult to identify primary trigger points out of all the knots and tenderness in your body. Your trigger points could also be deep in tight muscles, making them harder to locate.


That’s where massage therapists and chiropractors specializing in myofascial release come in. They have the training and experience to assess what’s going on and discover the sources. It may take them a few sessions to find the primary trigger points if there are many layers to unfold — and that’s most likely the case if you’ve been dealing with your pain for a long time.


Once you understand where you need to focus, you can complement the massage sessions by using tools for myofascial release at home. Talk to your healthcare provider and myofascial release massage therapist to find out which at-home method works the best for you.


Conclusion

If you are experiencing pain in your muscles and joints that never seems to go away, myofascial release could be the solution. Myofascial release massage performed by professionals can help you find the real source of your pain. With a healthy fascia system, you could be free from constant pain and discomfort, allowing you to spend your energy elsewhere.


Do you live near Manchester, New Hampshire? That’s where Victoria offers myofascial release massage. She provides a welcoming and calming space for anyone looking for total relaxation at the physical and spiritual levels.


Book her service today to experience how your body is designed to feel and move — perhaps for the first time in your life.




 

About the Author:


Yukari Yasui is a copywriter in the holistic health and wellness industry. She believes good copy is authentic, conscientious, and resonates with readers. Her mission is to spread the importance of being in tune with yourself — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. She loves to travel and experience the beauty of the world. You can find her hiking and backpacking in nature, creating soul-fulfilling food and baked goods in her kitchen, and trying her hand at growing vegetables.


Connect with her on Instagram here.

 

References:

Talks at Google. (2018, November 16). Anatomy Trains | Tom Myers | Talks at Google [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/FOzsDItW7Bs


Soft Tissue Manipulation in Complementary/Alternative Medicine. (2016, June 4). Musculoskeletal Key. https://musculoskeletalkey.com/soft-tissue-manipulation-in-complementaryalternative-medicine/


Lavelle, E. D., Lavelle, W., & Smith, H. S. (2007). Myofascial trigger points. Anesthesiology clinics, 25(4), 841–iii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.anclin.2007.07.003


National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists. (n.d.). Myofascial Therapy. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.myofascialtherapy.org/myofascial-therapy


American Society of Anesthesiologists. (n.d.). Myofascial Pain Syndrome. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.asahq.org/madeforthismoment/pain-management/types-of-pain/myofascial-pain-syndrome/


Shavers, B. (2020, December 2). Harmful Consequences of a Bad Posture. Neuroscience Specialists. Retrieved October 29, 2021, from https://www.neurosurg.org/articles/harmful-consequences-of-a-bad-posture


Brandl, A., Egner, C., & Schleip, R. (2021). Immediate Effects of Myofascial Release on the Thoracolumbar Fascia and Osteopathic Treatment for Acute Low Back Pain on Spine Shape Parameters: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Life (Basel, Switzerland), 11(8), 845. https://doi.org/10.3390/life11080845


Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Muscle Pain: It May Actually Be Your Fascia. Retrieved October 6, 2021, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/muscle-pain-it-may-actually-be-your-fascia


Wu, Z., Wang, Y., Ye, X., Chen, Z., Zhou, R., Ye, Z., Huang, J., Zhu, Y., Chen, G., & Xu, X. (2021). Myofascial Release for Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in medicine, 8, 697986. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2021.697986


Warren, A. J., LaCross, Z., Volberding, J. L., & O'Brien, M. S. (2020). ACUTE OUTCOMES OF MYOFASCIAL DECOMPRESSION (CUPPING THERAPY) COMPARED TO SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE ON HAMSTRING PATHOLOGY AFTER A SINGLE TREATMENT. International journal of sports physical therapy, 15(4), 579–592. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7735689/


Wang, C. C., Huang, T. H., Chiou, K. C., & Chang, Z. Y. (2018, December 2). Therapeutic Effect of Superficial Acupuncture in Treating Myofascial Pain of the Upper Trapezius Muscle: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Hindawi. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2018/9125746/


Ceccheerelli, F., Bordin, M., Gagliardi, G., & Caravello, M. (2001). Comparison between superficial and deep acupuncture in the treatment of the shoulder's myofascial pain: a randomized and controlled study. Acupuncture & electro-therapeutics research, 26(4), 229–238. https://doi.org/10.3727/036012901816355938


Lin, J. G., Chou, P. C., & Chu, H. Y. (2013). An exploration of the needling depth in acupuncture: the safe needling depth and the needling depth of clinical efficacy. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2013, 740508. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/740508


Markovic G. (2015). Acute effects of instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization vs. foam rolling on knee and hip range of motion in soccer players. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 19(4), 690–696. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2015.04.010


García-Sillero, M., Benítez-Porres, J., García-Romero, J., Bonilla, D. A., Petro, J. L., & Vargas-Molina, S. (2021). Comparison of Interventional Strategies to Improve Recovery after Eccentric Exercise-Induced Muscle Fatigue. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 647. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18020647

40 views0 comments