What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial Release is a specialised physical and manual therapy used for the effective treatment and rehabilitation of soft tissue and fascial tension and restrictions.

Myofascial Release Therapy

Myofascial Release Therapy, like many alternative therapies, promotes the philosophy that the mind and body work together to maintain health. Effectively this supports the understanding that the mind and body are one and the same. The body has the ability to remember postural positions, actions and emotions without the brain reminding it to do so. Throughout the body’s fascial system flow microscopic cells containing energy which have the ability to retain memory.

When a therapist places their hands on the horse, the mechanical energy from the hands is converted to chemical energy, connective tissue (fascia) is piezoelectric (has the ability to conduct electricity), the electric potential of the area changes and water is drawn to the area rehydrating the restricted area. As a result of the increased hydration, the central nervous system allows relaxation in the area and other metabolic changes, the myofascial system elongates and muscle spasm is reduced. As a result of this action, the horse experiences pain relief, reduced endema, reduced muscle spasm and increased function. As one area hydrates, the therapists hands glide to the next restricted region.

Therapists are taught to feel and stretch slowly into the fascial network. Collagen means glue producer so therapists are taught to feel for this glue like texture which when dense, thick or hard defines a fascial restriction. The MFR technique is very different to that of massaging muscles, tendons and the ligaments of the body. A time component also exists, coupled with the fluidity of the therapists hands in applying pressure and moving though each and every fascial restriction. The time element is a vital factor, the fascia cannot be forced as it will naturally meet that force in return. Hence the MFR therapist provides a sustained, gentle, pressure allowing the fascia to elongate naturally and return to its normal resting length restoring health and providing results that are both measurable and functional.

The MFR therapist not only takes in to consideration what they see in the patient’s postural assessment but works directly with what they feel and sense from palpating and treating the body.

Once the nature and normal function of the fascial network is understood, the effects of dysfunction on the entire fascial structure can be understood and we can begin to understand how symptoms, pain, imbalance and dysfunction develop. In many cases, traditional healthcare focuses on the symptom and where the pain is, then labels the dysfunction.

Occasionally following myofascial release work the owner may feel the horse is no better or even worse. This is because the horses ‘form follows his function’ meaning he will have compensated for asymmetries and restrictions for a certain amount of time before the session taking on a particular ‘form’. The myofascial release session has given the horse a new ‘form’ by resetting the fascia to perform how it originally did before the fascial injury occurred. The horse must adjust to this new form as he had developed a pattern where his restrictions were providing his stability. Myofascial release has removed this stability and re-education of the tissue will be required through further sessions and exercises.

Background information

Fascia, an embryological connective tissue, is a 3D continuous web of elastin and collagen fibres surrounded by a viscous fluid called the ground substance. Fascia is dynamic in nature, it responds to internal and external forces applied on it, meeting the resistance in order to protect. Research has proven that fascia, like muscle, has the ability to contract and relax and plays a major role in mobility and stability of joints. Fascia acts as a tensegrity (tension and integrity) model where tension and resistance rely on each other for stability and function.

Elastin provides flexibility and resiliency (like an elastic band), and it is responsible for recoiling the soft tissue back to its original state. Collagen has a relaxed wavy configuration of collagenous or plastic tissue which creates a 3D web throughout the body; it can handle multidirectional forces imposed on it and consists of microtubules filled with a crystalline saline solution providing shape, support, strength and stability. These two fibre types allow fascia to be very strong yet have a high degree of flexibility whilst the ground substance is a fluid transportation medium and acts a slide and glide mechanism between structures.

Fascia surrounds, infuses and protects every other tissue, tendon, muscle, bone, ligament and organ of the body. It is the information and structural highway of the body. In healthy conditions the fascial system is relaxed and wavy in configuration. This provides a cushioning and supportive mechanism allowing us to move safely without restriction or pain.

Following all physical and emotional trauma and as a consequence of  poor posture, fascia scars and hardens in the affected site and along the tension lines imposed on it. This causes the fascial network to lose its cushioning mechanism and internal structures become pulled out of alignment. This in turn creates an abnormal pressure, up to 2,000 pounds (Katake 1961) per square inch, crushing nerves, blood and lymphatic vessels and creating further tension on adjacent pain-sensitive structures and those along the fascial pull.

Fascial restrictions do not show up on CAT scans, MRI’s or X Rays therefore many patients are suffering unresolved physical and emotional pain due to undiagnosed fascial trauma. Conditions are a label for a symptom. Traditional healthcare treats the symptom, MFR with its whole body approach treats the cause at the deepest level.