Myofascial release is a gentle, hands-on treatment approach designed to release restrictions and resistance in the fibrous tissues of the body, with the ultimate goal of improving the function of these tissues and the organs and systems they support. The myofascial release approach is not to oppose the tissue resistance but move with the tissues in the direction of ease. It continuously takes up the slack, thereby progressively eliminating the load from the tissue layer by layer.
This approach is based on the properties of fascia, which are quite different from muscle. Both types of fibers are strong. While muscle fibers are highly elastic, contractile, and fatigable, fascia fibers are more rope-like, minimally elastic, non-contractile, and non-fatigable.
When stressed, fascia fibers will reflexively shorten and remain shortened. Attempting to stretch fascia is generally futile. Stress may only further induce the reflex to shorten. Slackening the fibers, however, unloads the tissue, eliminating the reflex to shorten, thereby allowing the fibers to reprogram and revert back to their original length.
Fascia is a fibrous type of connective tissue, attaching to nerves, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, muscle, bone, cartilage, organs, and various tissues. Fascia fibers are designed to support something, like a rope. They are designed to sustain a load and never fatigue.
Areas of the body under greater stress will experience an increasing need for support and produce more fascia. Conversely, the body tends to produce less fascia in areas under minimal stress or load. Fascia will be arranged according to the type of support required.
Fibers can be arranged to function like cargo nets, cables, firm walls, flexible membranes, spider webs, anchor strips, and so on. The production of fascia is ongoing based on the ever-changing needs of the body. The arrangement and location of some fascia can be predetermined, just as is the case with organs, bones, and muscles.
As fascia attaches to virtually every body structure, it creates a continuous network from head to toe. Fascia has a local role in supporting something specifically. It also functions globally for the entire body as a single unit or system, similar to the fabric in a shirt or blanket. Picture how pulling or wadding up your shirt creates lines of tension throughout the shirt, and how you can feel the tension in different parts of your body from the tightening fibers of the shirt.
When severe stresses are applied to the body, the fascial system responds in a similar way. The effects of shortening millions of individual fibers can have a crushing effect on the structures being supported within the fascia. This can dramatically reduce the ability to move fluids, including bringing in nutrient-rich fluids or flushing out waste and toxins.
The redistribution of pressure can shift loads onto highly sensitive tissues, such as nerve tissue, not designed to handle heavy loads. Mechanical forces can be altered, causing excessive friction or shearing of joints or organs. The leverage required for optimal muscle contractions can be altered, placing the muscles in awkward positions, causing them to overstrain, fatigue, tear, and have difficulty repairing. The function of the digestive system can be greatly impaired, as the position of the organs can be altered, and the ability to absorb nutrients is reduced.
Using the myofascial release treatment, we are progressively unloading the tissue by sustaining gentle support into the direction of ease, constantly slackening the tissue layer by layer. This process gradually allows for the influx and exchange of fluids within and between the tissue layers. It also leads to the return of the gliding motions between the tissue layers.
This in turn leads to the restoration of movement and function not only to the tissues themselves but also to the structures they support. This gentle, non-threatening approach not only avoids the risk of injury but also avoids the risk of inducing the protective, spontaneous shortening reflexes of the fascia. Because the manual pressure applied is gentle and sustained, the treatment is comfortable and extremely relaxing.