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What is Myofascial Release?

What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial Release is a term used for specific types of soft tissue work.  This type of work can come from Massage Therapists, Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, and of course, yourself!

Typically when we talk about myofascial release, we are working not only the muscles within the body, but the Fascia which is the connective tissue the holds and supports all cells within the body.  After years of study/research, we now know that fascia has some elastic properties (ability to stretch) as well as the ability to contract.  This makes it very similar to the muscles but yet fascia is different in that it like a bag that literally wraps and encompasses every cell in the body.

Myofascial release can be done in many different ways.  This includes compression of the muscle, traction of the muscle, pin and stretch techniques (similar to Active Release Technique), Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (Graston Technique) and much more.

There are many forms of muscle work and ways to help muscles heal but these are some of the most common.

Why Use Myofascial Release?

Doing muscle work to the body has one key feature… to allow the body to heal faster!

By doing myofascial release you are loosening up muscles, reducing scar tissue, improving blood flow, and restoring better joint mechanics to the body.  Any time you can allow the body to heal faster and in a better alignment, you will not only feel better, but perform better.

After seeing thousands of patients in my clinic, I know that when people feel and perform better, they in turn are happier and more productive.

How to Perform Self Myofascial Release?

Lets face it, we all get hurt so its not if but when we need some help!  As a result, its a great idea to learn some self myofascial techniques that allow you to get some pain relief.  Below we list a few techniques of the most popular techniques that you can do to learn.

  1. Compression Techniques – simply stated all you need to do is compress the muscle underneath some sort of surface.  This technique can be done by yourself or with a friend.  Have you ever had someone push on your back with their thumbs or elbows?  Well, if so then this is one way you can perform this.  When doing this technique you can find a tender spot and hold that area for about 5-30 seconds depending on the intensity.
  2. Foam Rolling – This is another type of compressive technique that allows you to sit, roll, lay and move on a roller.  You can move in many different fashions with this technique.  For example, you can literally just find a tender spot and sit there on it or you can roll it out in different areas.  Kind of like a rolling pin.  There are several types of rollers out on the market, some that are softer, some with knobs, and some with harder surfaces.  If you are new then the softer ones is always my first go to.
  3. Ball Rolling – Using a tennis ball, rubber ball, myofascial release ball or lacrosse ball you can really be a lot more focal and localized.  Since these surfaces are a much smaller, then tend to pack a bit more punch in terms of intensity so make sure you are aware of that.  If you are a beginner you should really consider a hollow ball at first and something less firm.  Again, the benefits of using a smaller ball is that you can likely get into harder to reach areas and get deeper into the muscle but they are a bit more painful at times.

How To Make Myofascial Release More Effective?

We don’t have time to roll out all day so making it effective is important.  If you get used to this technique the best way you can maximize your efforts is with movement of that joint.

Our body is designed to move and move often.  When you are compressing the joint, you can add different angles (up, down, left, right, diagonal) and try your best to move the area you are compressing into a full range of motion.  Adding movement is shown to promote better healing.

Other Tips to Make You Heal and Feel Better?

There are ways to do things properly and incorrectly so follow these techniques to make it more comfortable and reduce the risk of injury.

  1. When you are compressing the area make sure you are on the muscle NOT the bone! Too many people compress close to the bone or tendon!  Remember, muscles are the ones that move and elongate the best.  Compressing the bone will hurt a lot.
  2. Nerves – Sometimes we get sharp pain but that is because we are possibly compressing nerves.  If it feels warm, burning, shooting, stabbing pain it can likely be a nerve.  These nerves do not like compression and you should avoid it at all costs.
  3. Timing – I recommend anywhere between 5-30 seconds per spot.  These tender spots can be placed on a repeat cycle but I recommend you do not go more than 2-3 times.
  4. Referral – Referral pain can happen when you push on a knot or spot that refers to another area of the body.  One common area is the upper trap.  When you push here a lot of people often feel headaches.  This is normal but with all compression it can be very very weird at first.
  5. Take your time – This activity should not be rushed and you should remain conscious the whole time.  Do not fall asleep on a roller or ball!  Yes, I have heard about people doing this and its not a good idea.  Have fun, take your time and be aware of your body and learn to add more pressure or ease up if you need to.

Looking for a Soft Tissue (myofascial release) Expert?

If you are looking to get some work done by a professional please contact us or Schedule Now!  We are located in San Diego, CA and are in the neighborhood of Pacific Beach.  We use myofascial release to help everything from joint alignment, headaches, nerve pain, sprains/strains, and much more!