What is 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.

Myofascial Release (MFR) is a specialised physical and manual therapy used for the effective treatment and rehabilitation of soft tissue and fascial tension and restrictions. Once the nature and normal function of the fascial network is understood, the effects of dysfunction on the entire fascial structure can be seen 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.

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 thus 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.

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 working with the body. Therapists are taught to feel and stretch slowly into the fascial network.  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.

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.