Myofascial release (MFR) is a highly effective yet gentle manual technique that stretches restricted connective tissue, corrects movement dysfunction, and alleviates pain at its root source. Robert Loewen’s myofascial release practice is based on the methods developed by physical therapist John Barnes utilizing a whole-body, hands-on approach to the evaluation and treatment of the human structure. The primary focus is on the fascial system.
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What is Fascia?
Fascia is a very densely woven tissue which covers and interpenetraes every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein as well as all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one structure that exists from head to foot without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater.
Fascia also plays an important role in the support of our bodies, since it surrounds and attaches to all structures. These structures would not be able to provide the stability without the constant pull of the fascial system.
In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy in configuration. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When we experience physical trauma, scarring, or inflammation, however, the fascia loses its pliability. It becomes tight, restricted and a source of tension to the rest of the body. Trauma, such as a fall, whiplash, surgery or just habitual poor posture over time and repetitive stress injuries has a cumulative effect. The changes they cause in the fascial system influence comfort and the functioning of our body. The fascia can exert excessive pressure producing pain or restriction of motion. They affect our flexibility and stability, and are a determining factor in our ability to withstand stress and strain. Once these restrictions start exerting abnormal pressure on bones, joints, nerves, blood vessels and even organs, they unbalance the system, creating pain both locally and in seemingly unrelated areas of your body. While your pain is all too real, the true cause is too often overlooked by conventional medical practitioners since fascial restrictions do not show up on ordinary diagnostic tests such as MRI’s, CT scams and X-rays.
Fortunately, under sustained, low intensity pressure fascia slowly lengthens and eventually remains that way. To get a release that won’t spring back, Myofascial therapists stay with a stretch and follow a restriction three-dimensionally for 90 seconds to 2 minutes. A low intensity, sustained stretch is necessary because connective tissue reacts differently to stretching than muscle tissue. While muscle responds to a relatively firm stretch, the collagen in fascia is extremely tough and resistant to quick, hard stretching. Myofascial therapists stretch a fascial restriction to its barrier, wait for a release to continue, go to the next barrier, and so on. Eventually you will regain the fascial flexibility that will once again allow the muscles and joints to move as they were designed.
The use of Myofascial Release allows us to look at each patient as a unique individual. Our sessions are hands-on treatments during which our we use a multitude of Myofascial Release techniques and movement therapy. We promote independence through education in proper body mechanics and movement, through the enhancement of strength, flexibility, and postural and movement awareness.
Effects of Treatment. While myofascial release is gentle, it has profound effects upon your body tissues. Do not let the gentleness deceive you. While each patient’s response will be highly individual, certain common responses are seen repeatedly. Occasionally you may leave after a first treatment feeling like nothing happened. Later (even a day later), the effects of the treatment begin to manifest themselves.
Often there is soreness after treatment for several hours or perhaps a day. The discomfort is a result of the released tissues secreting lactic acid and other trapped metabolic wastes into the intercellular spaces where it can then be excreted via the body’s normal pathways. The best way to aid this process is by drinking extra water which helps flush toxins out of the body.
Frequently remarkable improvement is noted immediately during or after a treatment while at other times improvement comes after the soreness described above. Other typical responses reported by patients include: seemingly new pain in new areas, lightheadedness or nausea, and emotional responses such as joy or sadness. In any case, it is all part of the healing process.
Generally, acute cases are typically resolved with a few treatments. The more chronic the problem, the longer it usually takes to bring lasting results. Some chronic conditions that have developed over a period of years can require two or three treatments a week to obtain optimal results. Once the chronic condition has significantly improved, less frequent treatments can help to maintain the patient’s progress. Many patients find that once the pain has subsided, one treatment every few weeks can keep them in good condition.
Experience has shown that very infrequent treatments will often result in fascial tightness creeping back to the level that existed prior to the last treatment. To help ameliorate this process, Robert will give you stretching and self-treatment exercises to do at home to maintain the gains realized during your treatment.