Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR) for treating compression and pain

Posted by Jennifer Hunter @jenniferhunter, Feb 15, 2019

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

Thank you so much.. I actually live north of Houston In The Woodlands Tx. All of these are very far away and I am not able to drive on the Freeway anymore. Are there any in that area or how can I find out??

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@peggyn

Thank you so much.. I actually live north of Houston In The Woodlands Tx. All of these are very far away and I am not able to drive on the Freeway anymore. Are there any in that area or how can I find out??

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@peggyn The myofacialrelease.com website lists the MFR therapists who have trained with John Barnes who pay for the listing on the website. You can also call Therapy on the Rocks in Sedona, AZ which is the clinic of John Barnes and ask for names of therapists who have trained there. This is from my physical therapist who has expert level MFR training, but isn't listed there. Here is the link http://therapyontherocks.net/

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Do you know if this has helped anyone with pain and burning in the feet?

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@peggyn

Do you know if this has helped anyone with pain and burning in the feet?

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@peggyn If you go to page 2 in this discussion, Chris Trout @artscaping has a post about numbness and pain in her feet and getting feeling back from myofascial release and that she can feel her feet again to be able to drive. MFR can bring back circulation to dehydrated tissue and possibly help heal it. That might be different for different people. My experience is with physical causes of nerve pain, and I've had good results.

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@peggyn

Do you know if this has helped anyone with pain and burning in the feet?

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Hi. Yes it has helped me tremendously. I’ve had 2 MFR sessions and within 2 days after 1st treatment, I had very little neuropathy and the pins and needles that go with it. I also compliment the therapy with a pose where you put your legs up against the wall. Your legs are vertical as you lay on the ground. With your legs elevated, the blood and lymph nodes will use gravity and will provide relief by not having too much fluid in your lower extremity of legs. Drain if you will.
It usually takes more than one session to get additional relief, but I highly recommend trying this therapy. Good luck !!

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Thanks, I've heard about this type of therapy. I contact a PT in my area from your link.. I sat at a job most of my life and have shortening of the gluteus medius muscle and arthritis in my facet and SI joints and one bulging disc. I'm 59 years old and walking/standing was extremely painful. Stretching/self compression and massage has helped a great deal. I am off pain meds now and the pain is not as extreme as it was 6 months ago. I Also go to the gym mostly for swimming. I used the Hydro Therapy bed at Planet Fitness. I'm on SSDI so I'm eligible for free gym membership through the Silver Sneakers Program so I have a free membership at the YMCA to swim. I'm going to a free 20 minute appointment. I'll write again in future

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Thanks for the tip on free gym membership through SSDI. I too am on SSDI and will have to check into my options. Be well.

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@rwinney

Thanks for the tip on free gym membership through SSDI. I too am on SSDI and will have to check into my options. Be well.

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Hi @rwinney, let me know what you find out about eligibility for a free gym membership through SSDI. I would be interested. There may be an income limit for free services.

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Hello @cocodab, thank you for your private message. I thought I would answer your private message in this discussion on Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR) because I believe it may be something you have not thought about and it may help relieve some of your pain. I wasn't quite sure of your question in the private message but I thought you were trying to figure out which approach to take of 2 choices. Please forgive me if I misread your message.

1. Trying cryogenic to cool down so you are not so anxious at night. They list a whole lot of positives. One negative is the price for 3 minutes. I am not familiar with cryogenic therapy – do you have a clinic name or website link?
2. Trying to go off of medications but not knowing how to do it and how to know which ones are working and which ones don't help. I think this is a discussion you really need to have with your doctor or pharmacist to see if there may be drug interactions. I'm not sure any members can answer this one.

In your profile you mentioned you have adult erb's palsy resulting from nerve damage and neuropathy. Did you have an injury that caused the nerve damage? If you read the description of this discussion and watch the video describing the treatment I think it may be something that can help you. Here's the link to the top of this discussion – https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/myofascial-release-therapy-mfr-for-treating-compression-and-pain/.

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@johnbishop

Hello @cocodab, thank you for your private message. I thought I would answer your private message in this discussion on Myofascial Release Therapy (MFR) because I believe it may be something you have not thought about and it may help relieve some of your pain. I wasn't quite sure of your question in the private message but I thought you were trying to figure out which approach to take of 2 choices. Please forgive me if I misread your message.

1. Trying cryogenic to cool down so you are not so anxious at night. They list a whole lot of positives. One negative is the price for 3 minutes. I am not familiar with cryogenic therapy – do you have a clinic name or website link?
2. Trying to go off of medications but not knowing how to do it and how to know which ones are working and which ones don't help. I think this is a discussion you really need to have with your doctor or pharmacist to see if there may be drug interactions. I'm not sure any members can answer this one.

In your profile you mentioned you have adult erb's palsy resulting from nerve damage and neuropathy. Did you have an injury that caused the nerve damage? If you read the description of this discussion and watch the video describing the treatment I think it may be something that can help you. Here's the link to the top of this discussion – https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/myofascial-release-therapy-mfr-for-treating-compression-and-pain/.

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Good morning John, yes I have permanent damage from the erb’s palsy. I think that’s causes my greatest difficulties and worst pain. My arm or c-5 injury hangs enough that all muscle in neck are always tight. Did many exray and scans and Spine is well it’s all nerve damage from injury. It also caused my PN.

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@cocodab

Good morning John, yes I have permanent damage from the erb’s palsy. I think that’s causes my greatest difficulties and worst pain. My arm or c-5 injury hangs enough that all muscle in neck are always tight. Did many exray and scans and Spine is well it’s all nerve damage from injury. It also caused my PN.

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Good morning Trish, I'm tagging @jenniferhunter to see if she is able to offer some insight or suggestions that might be helpful for you. It sounds like you have been dealing with the related pain for a long time. Hoping you are able to find something that helps soon.

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@cocodab

Good morning John, yes I have permanent damage from the erb’s palsy. I think that’s causes my greatest difficulties and worst pain. My arm or c-5 injury hangs enough that all muscle in neck are always tight. Did many exray and scans and Spine is well it’s all nerve damage from injury. It also caused my PN.

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@cocodab I had to look up Erb's Palsy and it seems to be a birth injury of the brachial plexus. Is that separate from your C5 injury? Am I correct in thinking the spinal cord is OK, and you have injuries to nerves outside of that? Do you have an injury at the C5 nerve root?

My experience is that I have Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (a compression of the brachial plexus) and I had an old injury from a whiplash that caused my C5C6 disc to rupture and collapse and bone spurs compressing the spinal cord. I had surgery at Mayo for cervical stenosis. I have been doing myofascial release with my physical therapist for several years for TOS before my spine surgery and for my spine condition and rehab. I have similar symptoms with tight neck muscles because of TOS that MFR helps. Some of the tightness comes from the body guarding the injury, and I catch myself doing that and relax my shoulders. The constant guarding creates tension in my neck and shoulder, and that causes misalignment or bad posture, and the body gets stuck that way. The spaces the nerves travel through between muscle and bones are small, and adding pressure there creates a problem. MFR might be something to try as it can help a lot of problems caused by compression in the body.

Did you have results from nerve and EMG testing that said the nerves were permanently damaged and the electric potentials were listed as zeros? There is a point where permanent damage happens. Nerves can sometimes recover after decompression through therapy, etc. and peripheral nerves ( those outside of the spinal cord) have some ability to regenerate. I had some damage because my spinal cord was compressed for 2 years and I've recovered well. I did loose a lot of arm and shoulder muscle that I am still working to rebuild, and I've probably regained a little more than half of what I lost in the 2 years since my surgery. I did not have any nerve root compression, but with my disc that had collapsed 50% of it's height, if I was side bending my neck, the bones would touch the nerve root and send sharp pain down my arm. Sometimes spine patients get arthritis or bone spurs in the area around the nerve roots
where they exit the spine.

Here are some links that may be of interest. The first is about peripheral nerve regeneration. The last link is from an MFR expert in the John Barnes methods that lists Erb's Palsy as something that MFR can treat.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2770804/
https://trainingandrehabilitation.com/how-truly-treat-thoracic-outlet-syndrome/
https://monadnockmyofascialrelease.com/who-benefits-from-mfr/

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Hi Jennifer, nice to meet you and find someone either close to what this is because their are few. The actual erb’s palsy was a result of surgery. The surgeon cut the nerve at the end of the surgery at doing a corpectomy. Had a EMG showed the damage but I woke up from surgery with a completely dead right limb. It after 10 years has regained to about 50 percent but hangs on my neck and makes me feel like I am carrying my arm and by mid day can’t hold my head up.
I have and can move my right arm but I actually see it as a useless limb of pain. Believe me I have tried everything I know but if anything new what to radar out there. A bit more on my situation and thank you will read the link.

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@cocodab

Hi Jennifer, nice to meet you and find someone either close to what this is because their are few. The actual erb’s palsy was a result of surgery. The surgeon cut the nerve at the end of the surgery at doing a corpectomy. Had a EMG showed the damage but I woke up from surgery with a completely dead right limb. It after 10 years has regained to about 50 percent but hangs on my neck and makes me feel like I am carrying my arm and by mid day can’t hold my head up.
I have and can move my right arm but I actually see it as a useless limb of pain. Believe me I have tried everything I know but if anything new what to radar out there. A bit more on my situation and thank you will read the link.

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@cocodab This sounds like a complex problem, and it sounds like your shoulders and neck muscles are weak. It might not be a problem of compression, and instead nerves that are damaged or missing that in turn caused muscle wasting. I understand the fatigue from that, but what I've been through doesn't come close to your experience. The surgical scar tissue also creates tightness and the muscles can't move correctly, so that will add to the problem of weakness and exhaustion and there could be some nerve compression issues from that. MFR can help release the tightness of fascial scar tissue and it might be worth a try to see if it helps. You could have had nerve regeneration and have compression from scar tissue affecting that. My neck periodically gets tight around my surgical scar and I stretch it and release it. It sounds like you have had some regeneration, but not enough for a recovery. I'm not a doctor, and I can't diagnose that, and it is probably something that is being researched in regenerative medicine.

I have also run across a website for a practice of a few surgeons who graft nerves from other parts of the body. I have no experience with this and I don't know any patients who have seen them, but I found the website after another patient recommended a doctor and I looked him up. The website lists procedures they can do and surgery for the brachial plexus is listed as a grafting procedure. I had contacted a researcher at Mayo asking if they had a similar procedure because I know someone who is paralyzed at the level of the diaphragm, and the researcher at Mayo said they did not have a nerve grafting procedure yet for patients. These doctors say they are the only ones doing this in the country and they have a procedure for brachial plexus injuries. Here is the link. https://www.advancedreconstruction.com/brachial-plexus-injuries-program/

Have you tried physical therapy? After 10 years, perhaps no one thinks about it anymore, and a lot of doctors don't understand myofascial release. I know from my experience that MFR made it easier for my neurosurgeon to do his decompression surgery because the muscles in my neck were looser and would be easier to retract. I had asked my surgeon what I could do to make his job easier and he told me I could stretch the skin in my neck and told me where his incision would be. When he checked my neck, he said it was loose and that was because of the MFR I'd been doing for a few years, then after I was recovered enough post op, MFR helped get everything moving better again. I also wonder if there is any type on neurostimulation therapy that could trigger muscles and aid in muscle development and if MFR could open up the spaces and circulation for those nerves to exist. Your body might be compensating for nerves that are gone and haven't regenerated. The question then remains if the nerves have enough function to service those muscles.

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