What is Myofascial Release?
"Myo" refers to muscle. "Fascia" (pronounced FASH-A) is the continuous dimensional "web" of thin connective tissue that spreads throughout the body from head to toe. Fascia supports every single structure in the body. A "release" is a softening and lengthening of the fascia. Most deep tissue therapies attempt to release tension with quick force. In doing so, the important layers of fascia are not changing. In fact, by adding undo force the fascia can become even more restricted (tight). When the connection is slow and sustained the layers release, which can result in a decrease in pain & dysfunction, increase in mobility, and restoration of energy.
What is the Role of Fascia?
Fascia is not a superficial "body suit" that exists just below the surface of the skin. This expansive web surrounds and innervates every structure in the entire body to include individual muscles, muscle group and fibers; every bone, nerve, blood vessel, organ (even the brain and spinal cord) down to the cellular level. There's no separation between areas of fascia, and when one area is out of balance the entire web is affected.
The role of this complex network is to provide support, stability and cushioning, aids in the transportation of nutrients, enhances the body's natural detoxification process, and supports mobility. There are more nerve endings found in our fascia than in any other place in our bodies, so when we feel discomfort more than likely this pain resides in the fascia.
Excerpt from a series of fascia studies, "Strolling under the Skin" created by Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau, MD, depicting living fascia in motion as sustained pressure is applied to areas of restriction.
Fascia is Our Energetic Web
Fascia is a physical and energetic system that must be addressed with an intuitive touch. Connecting and listening to the fascia is the best way to facilitate a release, making our fascia the most accessible and dynamic system in the body. This fascial web holds our traumatic experiences- both physical and emotional- our deepest memories, bracing patterns, and the essence of the fight-flight-freeze response. Adding undo force will only increase the resistance in the tissue. When we honor the barrier, the energy in the fascia changes.
Fascia can change with gentle, sustained physical contact, through movement exercises (i.e.: yoga, Feldenkrais, Tai Chi, Qigong, etc), and by deepening our awareness. Receiving regular Myofascial Release treatments from an experienced & intuitive therapist and committing to regular self care can greatly enhance your quality of life.
How Does Fascia Respond to Trauma?
When the fascia becomes tight in response to trauma due to an injury, post-surgical event, structural imbalance, or emotional disturbance, the fluid environment of the fascia becomes dense and fibrous. As a result the fascia loses pliability and enters a state of restriction. Over time this can lead to poor muscular biomechanics, altered structural alignment, decreased strength, endurance and motor coordination. This condition bombards the body, disrupts proper functioning, and the system becomes compromised. When our bodies enter this state of chaos everything becomes disrupted. We experience difficulty focusing, sleeping, digesting and moving. This is why forceful, aggressive therapies do not always work. You fascia does not want to be manipulated or controlled in any way or else it will perceive this force as an attack. If you've experienced a trauma or a series of trauma over time, what will be most beneficial is gentle support to help you soften the barriers that hold the traumatic expereince(s) so that you may find your ease.
The John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach
The John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach® (JFB-MFR) is vastly different from other forms of Myofascial Release. The approach involves no force into the body. JFB-MFR is about connecting, listening and allowing for the fascia to change (softening and lengthening). This is a subtle energy therapy that honors the body in every way. JFB-MFR provides a safe, gentle and effective way to structurally and energetically open and rehydrate the human fascial system for the coherent flow of frequency, vibration, information and organization necessary for optimum health.
5-minute video, "What is Myofascial Release", created by Richard Harty, PT
How is Myofascial Release Applied?
Myofascial Release involves direct contact with the skin without the use of lotion or oil. This contact allows for a fascia connection without gliding on the surface of the skin. Myofascial Release includes compression techniques and passive stretching. Typically the client is laying down on a massage table (face up or face down), but also can be done while seated or in standing. It is best to wear/bring workout clothing such as shorts and a t-shirt or tank top. Usually men wear shorts with or without a t-shirt, and women usually wear shorts and a tank top or sports bra. But you can wear whatever is comfortable for you. We can also use a drape during your session if you wish to be covered. Please do not apply any lotion or oil to your skin immediately prior to your session.
Is Myofascial Release Painful? How Will I Feel After the Session?
Myofascial Release is a gentle therapy and can be a very relaxing experience; however, as you find yourself releasing held tension and trauma you could experience something called, "therapeutic pain". This often surprises people during treatment and anywhere from hours to days following the session. It is not uncommon for mild soreness to occur, painful memories to surface, and other therapeutic changes. This is what happens when we connect with the deep barriers within us. Most of our lives we've pushed emotions down and painful memories aside. This accumulates in our fascia and becomes locked within. Healing can be messy, but necessary for us to let go of what no longer serves us. Allowing yourself to fully experience this discomfort can be life-changing. Much can be resolved in one single session, but follow up sessions may be necessary. You are the best judge of how you feel. Trust yourself and you will begin to deepen your intuitive sense. Speak with your therapist about a treatment plan and reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
Barnes, John F., PT, Myofascial Release: The Search for Excellence, National Library of Medicine, 1990
Barnes, John F., PT, Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade's Wisdom, MFR Treatment Centers & Seminars, June 1, 2000
Barnes, M.F., "The Basic Science of Myofascial Release: Morphologic Changes in Connective Tissue"; Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, July 1997
Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau, MD, "Strolling Under the Skin", DVD (28’ - 2005), SFRS Service du Film de Recherche Scientifique; Distribution : Endovivo,
Richard Harty, PT, You Tube video, "What is Myofascial Release"
Van Der Kolk, Bessel, MD. The Body Keeps the Score
Disclaimer: While the services at Myofascial Release Falls Church (Elements of Wellness, LLC) contribute to relaxation and an improved state of well-being, they are not intended to replace medical diagnosis and treatment. It is recommended that you consult your physician regarding any illness you may have. I do not diagnose illnesses, nor do I recommend diets, medical treatments or supplements.