Megan here. Myofascial Release (MFR) is by far my favorite modality to use within massage because I believe it has a more long lasting effect than many other modalities. These days, I begin almost all my massage sessions with some form of MFR because it is so beneficial and I’ve seen it help so many of my clients.
So what is MFR? It’s a manipulative treatment that helps to release tension in the fascia (the most important connective tissue in the body) due to trauma, posture, or inflammation.
At first glance, MFR can seem fairly simple because it feels like intense stretching (but it’s actually so much more). Many people think of massage as traditional Swedish techniques, so it can be a little confusing when receiving MFR for the first time because it expands so far beyond that traditional image.
Many clients are surprised and amazed at how much MFR helps and how much it changes the massage. Now don’t get me wrong: all massage modalities have a therapeutic benefit. But I believe that using MFR is a great way to help decrease pain for a longer amount of time. My approach to a massage is that it is a process, starting slow with stretches and MFR and ending with a mixture of other modalities that best fit your needs and wants. At first you might feel confused and not understand why or how MFR will help, but by the end, like most of my clients, you’ll probably be specifically requesting it, and your massage won’t feel complete without it.
The Fascinating World of Fascia
MFR deals with the fascial system, important connective tissue that encases muscles, bones, organs, and nerves in the body. This connective tissue connects and forms the structure of the body. It supports the organ, nervous, and vascular systems. We tend to think of body structure as bones and muscles. But fascia is also a very important part of the body’s structure, and it acts kind of like glue. Think of it like this: when putting up a tent you need the poles (bones), the tent (muscles) and the strings (fascia). Without the strings, the tent wouldn’t be able to stand up. It’s the same with fascia. Without it, you would be a blob on the floor.
Fascia is similar to a spider web in that it is organized but irregular, making it adaptable. It’s strong. So strong, in fact, that only a very sharp knife can cut through it. Not only is it strong, it’s also elastic. And it’s that elastic nature that enables movement within your body. Fascia makes up a high proportion of body mass, reaching through all body elements like a supportive net or spider web.
How MFR Heals Fascia
So how does that tie into MFR? Well, the biggest problem with fascia is that it can bind down to muscles, which can cause pain. This is where MFR comes in. It can help these areas of tension to release the fascia and as a result, ease the pain. Have you ever been told by a doctor that nothing is wrong, but you’re still having pain? Assessment often focuses on bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Fascia can all too easily be overlooked. But it’s a likely suspect in these cases and well worth investigating.
Most forces acting on your body are from the outside, but forces can also arise from inside your body. For example, many people only move a part of their backs when walking. As a result, the fascia within the back can bind down to the spine or muscles surrounding the spine, limiting movement and making it less adaptable. This could be one reason you’re experiencing low back pain, and by receiving MFR, it could help to release the fascial restriction and allow more movement again.
Something I find incredibly fascinating about fascia is that it can store memories. What I mean is that fascia can remember holding patterns from childhood into adulthood that your mind doesn’t necessarily remember. For example, if your mom always held your left hand as a child, you may experience an elevated left shoulder as an adult. MFR can help release these physical areas of tension.
Another primary way your body communicates with you (besides pain) is through emotions. If you’ve had an emotional accident in your life, like a car accident that involved whiplash, your neck may be very sensitive to being touched even though you know the therapist isn’t going to hurt you. While receiving MFR, you can get emotional as your fascia can remember these specific traumas throughout your life and may even flash the memories of the accident back. In MFR, this is known as an emotional release. An emotional release is a great thing because it indicates the fascia is changing and possibly moving past the incident and the pain.
MFR is an highly effective massage technique that I believe is underrated, and it’s something many people, if not everyone, can benefit greatly from. I hope you’ll try it and discover how it can truly take your massage experience to the next level.
Thanks for reading! I hope to see you on my massage table soon.