If you sign up for a Pilates Foam Roller class, it may well involve a spot of Myofascial Release Therapy.
But what is it and how can it help you? Moira Johnson, who has been practicing Massage Therapy for 30 years, reveals all.
Myofascial Release Therapy is a relatively recent therapy. The role of the fascia in the body was not fully appreciated until the 21st century.
Literally, myo means muscle, and fascia means band. (A bit like the fascia, or the smooth band of material used to finish buildings and windows). In the body, there are two types of fascia – superficial, the layer right under the skin, and deep. Deep fascia compartmentalises the entire muscular system, it surrounds and separates our organs, and contributes to the shape and function of the body. It thickens under stress, and is tough, tight and compact.
Think of all those white bits when you peel an orange- all those little white fibres which separate each segment, appear just under the skin and exist deep down in the centre as well.
Think of fascia as a great big ‘onesy’ in our bodies. If you pull on one bit, ripples or stretches will appear on another. It’s the same with the body: if we put too much stress on one area, it can affect other parts of the body.
The first filming of fascia was made as recently as 2014, confirming that it’s a dynamic, ever changing and adapting fluid filled network. Another miracle of our body! Myofascial Release Therapy targets that deeper fascia level, allowing any restriction to release.
So why would it become restricted in the first place? There’s three main reasons: injury, posture and trauma. Take your pick – each will be stored in our body, in the fascia network, sometimes for decades, if left unresolved.
How does it work? Does it hurt?
Not at all, in my experience, or at least, it is extremely rare, and can be dealt with at the time. The therapist access that deep fascia by gently sinking into the muscle. Once the fascia is felt, it is pulled in opposite directions until a ‘softening’ or release takes place, at which point the therapist will continue to follow through a range of releases, however minute or strong, until she feels that they have come to natural conclusion. This sequence could take 5 – 10 minutes. It might seem counter-intuitive that such a slow and gentle therapy could have such a profound effect. Once, I worked on a competitive cyclist who, expecting a targeted deep pummelling Sports Massage technique, did not believe that my treatment could work. I asked him to withhold judgement until after I’d treated one of his legs, at which point he could get off the couch and see for himself. Despite his expectation, he reluctantly agreed that it did indeed, feel a great deal better, and we carried on.
Myofascial Release work is increasingly being adopted by Physiotherapists, Osteopaths, and Massage Therapists, as it combines so well with their other techniques. In Massage, it will always be applied at the beginning, not just because you need to work on dry skin, but because it can help ‘reset’ the body structurally before work is done to the more superficial layers. Of course, it’s possible to have a whole treatment just using Myofascial Release Therapy, as it’s so versatile and holistic. Maybe you’d like to try this treatment for yourself?
Moira Johnson, Agnes Organic Hair & Beauty