Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR) for treating compression and pain

Posted by Jennifer Hunter @jenniferhunter, Fri, Feb 15 11:03am

What is Myofascial Release (MFR therapy)? How can it relieve pain? Let’s discuss how MFR has improved our health and reduced pain and share articles about how MFR works. MFR helps so many different conditions that have compressed tissues, and entrapped blood vessels and nerves. The time to avoid MFR treatment would be if a person has cancer, because in releasing tight tissues, cancer cells could be released and able to migrate through the body.

Myofascial release is a way to stretch the fascial layers that holds our body together. The fascia is connective tissue that forms a web matrix that interconnects everything in the body. It has recently been described as the “Interstitium” or a new organ in the body.

Fascia can be too tight from injuries or surgical scar tissue, and hold the body in poor ergonomics which can lead to nerve compression. Fascia can be stretched or “released” and it will remodel itself by changing from a semi solid to liquid form which brings circulation to an area of compressed tissue which then expands the tissue and circulation, and it enables removal of metabolic waste products. Using their hands, the trained therapist will find the path of fascial restriction in the patient’s body and push against it gently in a shearing motion, and wait for the tissue to start to slide. The patient can feel the movement and become body aware. This path of fascial movement can reach the full length of the body and cross over between sides. This path changes as it unravels, and often there is a vasomotor response that can be seen on the skin temporarily as a reddish area where circulation has been restored which is shown on the photo below near the therapist’s hands. Treatment must be slow and gentle to prevent the body from guarding in a protective response. This is why aggressive methods to stretch fascia often fail and can cause injuries by tearing the fascia and forming scar tissue that just adds to the problem of fascial tightness.

Fascia also holds tissue memory, and in releasing it, sometimes there is a release of emotions tied to an injury that was a cause of the problem. Stress and injury can cause guarding behavior and tissue tightness that become permanent over time, and MFR and working on emotional health helps a person recover from the physical and emotional effects of stress and trauma on the body.

MFR is helpful to so many conditions that have an underlying physical cause. The physical therapist who developed this treatment method forty years ago is John Barnes. He has developed courses and MFR certifications for physical therapists. There is a lot of information about MFR at myofascialrelease.com as well as directory of therapists treating with MFR. A person may also contact Therapy on the Rocks in Sedona, AZ, and ask for recommendations of therapists who have been trained in the John Barnes Methods. MFR therapy is becoming better known and accepted healing therapy, although there are some doctors who are unaware of the benefits.

I wanted to create this discussion to help organize this information and I thought the Neuropathy group would be a good place to start because someone in pain might look here, but we could have this discussion in many discussion groups. Animals such as dogs, cats and horses have also benefited from this therapy. Hopefully as we collect information here, this discussion can be referenced and shared in the many other discussions on Mayo Clinic Connect.

Here is an incomplete list of conditions that can be helped with MFR treatment.

You may find this list and further information at https://www.myofascialrelease.com/about/problems-mfr-helps.aspx

Back pain
Bladder Problems (Urgency, Frequency, Incontinence, Overactive Bladder, leakage
Birth Injuries
Bulging Disc
Bursitis
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Cerebral Palsy
Cervical and Lumbar spine injuries
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic Pain
Degenerative Disc Disease
Endometriosis
Emotional Trauma
Fibromyalgia
Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)
Herniated Disc
Headaches or Migraines
Infertility
Interstitial Cystitis
Menstrual Problems
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Neck Pain
Osteoarthritis
Pelvic Pain
Plantar Fascitis
Pudental Nerve Entrapment
Scars (hypertrophic, hypersensitive, painful, burn scars, mastectomy scars)
Sciatica
Scoliosis
Shin Splints
Tennis Elbow
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
TMJ syndrome
Trigeminal Neuralgia
Vulvodynia
Whiplash

Lumbo Sacral Decompression video with John Barnes

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Problems that MFR helps
https://myofascialrelease.com/about/problems-mfr-helps.aspx
Benefits of Massage-Myofascial Release Therapy on Pain, Anxiety, Quality of Sleep, Depression, and Quality of Life in Patients with Fibromyalgia
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3018656/
Therapeutic Insight: The Myofascial Release Perspective—Depression John Barnes
https://www.massagemag.com/therapeutic-insight-the-myofascial-release-perspectivedepression-8584/
Use Fascia as a Lever John Barnes
https://myofascialrelease.com/downloads/articles/FasciaAsALever.pdf
Therapeutic Insight: The Myofascial Release Perspective—Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Shock
https://www.massagemag.com/therapeutic-insight-the-myofascial-release-perspectivesympathetic-and-parasympathetic-shock-7709/
Therapeutic Insight: The John F. Barnes' Myofascial Release Perspective—Rufus, the Cat
https://www.massagemag.com/therapeutic-insight-the-john-f-barnes-myofascial-release-perspectiverufus-the-cat-12559/
There's the Rub
https://myofascialrelease.com/downloads/articles/TheresTheRub.pdf
Therapeutic Insight: The Myofascial Release Perspective—Myofascial/Osseous Release
https://www.massagemag.com/therapeutic-insight-the-myofascial-release-perspective-myofascialosseous-release-7597/

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Myofascial Release and Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

TOS causes tingling in the pinky finger from the ulnar nerve. It is a compression in the chest between the collar bone and ribs, or from tight scalene muscles in the neck, and there is a compression point under pectoralis minor in the chest. My Physical Therapist does myofascial release work to stretch the front of my chest and neck, and exercise to strengthen the back and muscles around the shoulder blades. TOS is a positional problem. When you read or type, your head is likely forward and shoulders moved forward which puts pressure on the compression points. Sleeping does this too because of raised arm positions. One test for this is the doctor raises your arm in a bent arm position and checks for your pulse to stop, and also when turning your head. A lot of doctors miss this and don't understand TOS because it's glossed over in med school (per my neurologist). Specialists in TOS are usually at university teaching med centers that treat it (check on website for conditions treated). Mayo is a good place for evaluation of TOS. I am a pine surgery patient who also has TOS.

Here is some information for you about TOS and MFR.
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thoracic-outlet-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20353988
https://trainingandrehabilitation.com/how-truly-treat-thoracic-outlet-syndrome/

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Psoas muscle tightness

Fascial restrictions can affect anything in the body and I think it's always worth asking the question of my physical therapist anytime something changes. MFR can prevent health problems that would be caused by compression of something. If you compress a nerve enough there is pain, but eventually as the nerve is affected, the muscle that it served withers away. If you compress a blood vessel enough, it either starves part of the body for the blood and oxygen supply, or it pools fluid somewhere with the potential for blot clots. Blot clots can be serious business if they come loose and move through the circulatory system. The human body was meant to move. MFR can get the body back to normal functioning and reduce pain, and also allow the fluids to circulate through the tissues, not only bringing oxygen, but also removing waste products of metabolism. The blood cells are contained within vessels, and the lymph fluid actually is in contact with the cells of the organs and bring the dissolved oxygen directly to the tissues as it can pass through the capillary walls. The body has a system to return the lymph fluid back into the blood stream.

I do a lot of MFR work myself at home to build on what my physical therapist does in my weekly session. She has explained to me how to do this and you learn the feel of it, so you can actually feel the tight pathways, and also feel when the fascia begins to slide and open up. I would encourage you to do a lot of at home work stretching too. I did some this morning… too much sitting at the computer and my low back hurt because my psoas muscles where tight. They connect from the ilium of the pelvis ("hip bone") to the lumbar spine. I laid on my stomach with 2 small balls, one just inside each ilium and waited, then moved the balls and waited until I had worked through all of it. I also twisted my lumbar spine to the right because my left side is tighter while I was on the balls. I also laid on my right side at the edge of the bed and let my left (top) leg hang off the edge to further stretch that area. I probably spent an hour doing that and it relieved my low back pain. I also have a rubber thing called a Sacro Wedgie that I lay on while on my back. it cradles the sacrum to support it in proper alignment and it just uses my body weight to do it. Then I also can reset my pelvis with a move my therapist taught me. It's common to have alignment issues because the pelvis is jointed and has the ability to shift. I pay attention to the length of my stride when I walk, if it is too short, my leg will not extend far enough behind me, and then it is time to stretch and get it working again. You've probably noticed people with very short strides who walk a very short step.

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This is an amazing description of what myofascial release does. I had a double knee replacement a year ago and have had a rough go of it. I’ve withstood a ton of pain in my life, but nothing like rehab for the surgery. With Months on end of no more than two hours sleep, constant pain, as well as aggressive Physical therapy that left me with PTSD, I finally found relief with alternative therapies. Acupuncture and myofascial release has been a god send and just makes sense. My physical pain is subsiding as well as the emotional pain that has been stored in my body. It’s giving me back my life!

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@golfshrink

This is an amazing description of what myofascial release does. I had a double knee replacement a year ago and have had a rough go of it. I’ve withstood a ton of pain in my life, but nothing like rehab for the surgery. With Months on end of no more than two hours sleep, constant pain, as well as aggressive Physical therapy that left me with PTSD, I finally found relief with alternative therapies. Acupuncture and myofascial release has been a god send and just makes sense. My physical pain is subsiding as well as the emotional pain that has been stored in my body. It’s giving me back my life!

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@golfshrink That's wonderful that MFR is helping you recover. Surgical scar tissue is something that it helps. I had spine surgery on my neck at Mayo, and I also have thoracic outlet syndrome which is a compression of nerves and vessels between the collar bone and rib cage that affects my arms. My surgical incision was on the front side of my neck close to the TOS issues, and the TOS got worse because of the neck surgery and because I was in a neck brace for a few months, but I've been able to recover well from that and make progress on the TOS with MFR therapy. It's also a learning experience when you overcome chronic pain and the fear that goes with that. You can use the MFR techniques for self treatment on muscles that are hot, hard or tender, and you can prevent joint problems by preserving proper alignment by keeping the muscles functioning as they should. Your therapist can show you some things to do. Thanks for sharing your story.

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There is a video on You Tube called "Strolling Under the Skin" that shows living fascia and explains how it moves and is interconnected. The video shows living tissues from surgery at the beginning of a tendon and blood vessels sliding back and forth (which is why I didn't post the link here). The second half shows close up the living fascia which is like a clear spider web moving and explains how it works. For those who are interested, you can always watch the second half of the video.

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@jenniferhunter Thanks I will look it up

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Does anyone know of a therapist in the Rochester, MN area that specializes in MFP? I'm thinking it will help with lower back ache that I'm guessing is part old age, part osteoperosis and most likely poor posture ☺ I've had it for years but it's better some days and not so other days.

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@johnbishop

Does anyone know of a therapist in the Rochester, MN area that specializes in MFP? I'm thinking it will help with lower back ache that I'm guessing is part old age, part osteoperosis and most likely poor posture ☺ I've had it for years but it's better some days and not so other days.

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I am not in that area but I am doing physical therapy in a heated water pool with salt.I have had many spinal changes but turning 60 this year they have become worst. I believe the low impact of the therapy to strengthen my core muscles ,seems to be helping . I also invested in a moist heating pad made by Battle Creek call a Thermophore max heat which takes the moisture from the atmosphere instead of having to wet anything. I have been using that for over 25+ years. You can order it from Amazon. The name of the franchise PT therapy is Aquacare. Good luck !

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Hi @carolann59, welcome to Connect and thanks for the suggestion!

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@johnbishop

Does anyone know of a therapist in the Rochester, MN area that specializes in MFP? I'm thinking it will help with lower back ache that I'm guessing is part old age, part osteoperosis and most likely poor posture ☺ I've had it for years but it's better some days and not so other days.

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https://dahlc.mayoclinic.org/2016/04/04/meet-the-massage-therapists/
I have my treatments 3 x a week and it has helped me tremendously!!

Prayers for relief!!
Dawn

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@dawn_giacabazi

https://dahlc.mayoclinic.org/2016/04/04/meet-the-massage-therapists/
I have my treatments 3 x a week and it has helped me tremendously!!

Prayers for relief!!
Dawn

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Thanks Dawn, the Dan Abraham's Healthy Living Center would be a good choice for me but I'm not sure if you have to be a member to use their massage therapists. I'll have to check with my daughter who works at Mayo and uses the facilities.

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@jenniferhunter Thanks for all this information Im having sciatica trouble now going to massage therapist Thrusday and will ask her if she dies MFP Didnt realise how many parts of the body this will help

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