Myofascial Release (MFR) Techniques
The initial concepts of Myofascial Release (MFR) appear to have been developed by the medical doctor and founder of Osteopathic Medicine, Andrew Still. However, there have been other well-known contributions to Myofascial Release (MFR) techniques notably by Ida Rolf (Rolfing). In brief, Myofascial Release (MFR) is a method of assessing and treating dysfunctional tissues, with the aim of restoring normal or as near normal tissue function. Fascia and the fascial network play are a large part in the theory behind the technique and its development. However, actual research relating to the field of fascia is a relatively recent area of study.
Fascia and its relevance
Fascia can be found throughout the human body and does not look too dissimilar to cotton wool or a spiders silk under magnification. It is a densely woven collagen fibre matrix that is believed to penetrate every tissue within the body and cover muscles and organs. There are also specific deep and superficial layers of fascia, which aid with functional movement, support structures within the body and provide stability. Without fascia ones, muscles would lack their distinctive shape. It is relatively easy to see fascia within a piece of raw chicken breast or other meat. A chicken breast typically has a thin translucent portion of fascia between the breast meat and the tenderloin.
In normal, circumstances fascia is a well hydrated, smooth, translucent, slippery and a durable material. However, these properties of fascia can change as a result of other factors including injury, dehydration, specific medical conditions, changes to other tissues/structures and possibly other factors such as diet (nutrients). The anatomist Tom Myers has been conducting work relating to fascia and the fascial network for well over 20 years. During, his research Tom Myers (the anatomist) has identified multiple specific facial lines which are thought to support functional movement namely; the superficial front and back lines, lateral line, spiral line, arm lines, functional lines and deep front line. At least, four distinctive types of fascia have been identified and with each providing a different function. The four types of fascia identified to date include inter-structural, spinal, structural and visceral.
As with various tissues and structures within the body, things can go wrong or become dysfunctional. Fascia is thought to not only supports multiple functional movements but facilitate movement too. The human body consists of a vast number of tissues, structures and various layers thereof. Fascia is thought to not only separate these tissues and structures but also hold them together in many respects. Primary, human movement requires multiple muscles and layers to either contract, relax or stabilise for any given action. Also, muscles have different origins and insertions, or in other words attachment points, e.g. from “a to b” in the simplest muscles. The section about Soft Tissue Release (STR) explains muscle origins and insertions in more detail. For muscles to be able to move and not interfere with the operation and movement of other muscles or structures, they need to be able to glide over each other. Fascia, conveniently separates the muscles into separate bags or compartments, allowing each muscle to slide over the next unhindered. However, fascia can become dysfunctional, and this is thought to impact how muscles then slide over each other. In essence, parts of the fascia are thought to become sticky, and this stickiness then affects other tissues, movement and may even explain myofascial pain symptoms. There are various ideas as to why fascia can become dysfunctional, including postural related (muscular fatigue), lack of hydration, specific medical conditions, trauma, diet, activity levels and age. Tom Myers (the anatomist) has noted that the fascial lines that he has identified perform different supportive functions and that dysfunction in one area can impact other areas.
The Kinetic Chain and Fascia
The kinetic chain theory proposes that various segments of the body have a direct impact on other neighbouring ones. Typically, the body is divided up into sections which consist of joints and other structures such as; ankles, knees, hips, lumbar spine, thoracic spine and cervical spine. These segments or sections form a "kinetic chain" when one moves. If all parts of the chain are operating correctly or normally, then one tends not to experience pain, discomfort or restricted mobility. If tissues, joints or other structures are not functioning correctly, this can affect how a specific segment moves. Logically, if one section is not working correctly, it would soon lead to other areas in the kinetic chain also encountering problems. However, the body is extremely good at adapting to avoid pain, and so it may take a while to notice changes to the kinetic chain. The supportive fascial lines identified by Tom Myers (the anatomist) are also thought to have a major impact on the “kinetic chain”. Biomechanically, the “kinetic chain” concept makes a great deal of sense and dysfunction in one area of the “kinetic chain” can affect both sides of the body and not just (higher) or (lower) than the affected segment side. A more encompassing way to view the human body is through compressive and tensile forces and Biotensegrity (see the article on Biotensegrity for further details).
Myofasacial Release (MFR) and variants
Myofascial Release (MFR) techniques aim to assess and treat areas of dysfunctional tissue, including fascia, muscles, tendons and ligaments. There are many ways to perform Myofascial Release (MFR) including “static” and “dynamic”. Typically, “static” Myofascial Release (MFR) would involve the practitioner assessing and treating tissue with the patient staying still “static”. Dynamically, applied Myofascial Release (MFR) would involve the patient moving the tissues being assessed/treated, with or without the therapist applying a movement technique and either in weight bearing or non-weight bearing positions. Myofascial Release (MFR) techniques can be used to treat a vast area of muscles and tissues, provided the practitioner has an excellent physiological and anatomical knowledge. As previously, mentioned there are many variants of Myofascial Release (MFR) techniques, and some have patented protocols or are registered trademarks, such as Active Release Technique (ART) ®. Soft Tissue Release (STR) is also another and yet a very different form of Myofascial Release (MFR) technique. There are also versions which use specially shaped tools to replace a therapists hand, forearm etc. Many of the methods which use shaped tools are often referred to as Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM) these days. Again there are patented and trademarked versions of such methods including, Graston Technique ®. Foam rolling is another form of Myofascial Release (MFR) technique. That said, just because something is trademarked or patented, does not necessarily mean that it is better than other methods of treatment. Muscle Energy Technique (MET) and variants of this technique are also forms of Myofascial Release and tend to be used in specific circumstances. Another very useful Myofascial release method or protocol is that of Positional Release Technique (PRT) and when used correctly can prove highly effective at reducing myofascial spasms and pain. Even Western Medicine acupuncture or Dry Needling (DN) is another form of myofascial release.
Self-treatment Myofascial Release
Massage balls and or Trigger Point Therapy balls can also be used for Myofascial Release (MFR) purposes or in a Neuromuscular Technique (NMT) fashion. However, although such self-treatment techniques can be reasonably good, though there are limits regarding the effectiveness. The Foam Rolling and Trigger Point Therapy articles cover such things in more detail.
Chiropractic and Massage Registrations
All of our therapist's hold relevant professional industry registrations and or memberships. Our principal Chiropractor Terry Davis MSMA holds additional memberships and registrations for Massage Therapy with the Complementary & Natural Health Council (CHNC) and the Sports Massage Association (SMA). He is also BTEC Level 5 Clinical Sports and Remedial Massage Therapy qualified.