John F. Barnes Myofascial Release
The John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach® (JFB-MFR) is vastly different from other forms of manual therapy. This is because NO FORCE is applied into the body. JFB-MFR is about connecting with your body to allow tension to release, rather than pushing through the tissue with force. This is a subtle energy therapy that honors the body in every way.
It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to learn from John Barnes himself, a true living master. This comprehensive therapy is used to help resolve restriction that causes pain and dysfunction. "Myo" refers to muscle and "fascia" is the connective tissue supporting every single structure in the body. 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.
A JFB-MFR trained therapist applies gentle, sustained pressure into areas of restriction (known as the tissue barrier) for a minimum of 5 min, after which time the tissue will undergo histological length changes allowing the first release. Continuing to patiently wait at the tissue barrier will allow layer upon layer to soften and lengthen, altering the fascia into it's natural fluid state (softer and more pliable). The restoration of health to the tissue will alleviate pressure on pain sensitive structures, freeing nerves and blood vessels, restoring alignment, and increasing mobility to the joints.
What is fascia?
The fascia system is a continuous sheet of strong connective tissue which spreads throughout the body in a 3-dimensional web from head to toe. It surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ from the surface down to the cellular level. Fascia exists between every single fiber, and surrounds the brain and spinal cord. 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. Fascia holds tension, both physical and emotional trauma, deep memories and bracing patterns. Additionally, 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. When the fascia becomes tight in response to trauma due to an injury, post-surgical event, structural imbalance, or emotional disturbance, the fascia loses pliability and becomes restricted. The fluid environment of the fascia becomes dense and fibrous. 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.
5-minute video, "What is Myofascial Release", created by Richard Harty, PT
A fascinating 30-minute educational video excerpt from, "Strolling under the Skin" created by Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau, MD. This brillaint footage depicts living fascia in motion as sustained pressure is applied to areas of restriction. Enjoy!
MFR can significantly benefit many conditions (just to name a few)
- Relieves chronic headaches, neck, shoulder, back and hip pain
- Joint restriction and limited range of motion (including disc problems, shoulder issues, TMJ disorders, knees problems, etc.)
- Structural misalignment
- Recurring injures
- Neurological dysfunction
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Scar release from post-surgery and injuries
- Muscular cramping
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Digestive distress and elimination issues
- Depleted energy and poor endurance
- Sleep disorders
- Respiration problems
- Depression and anxiety
- Women's health problems (menstrual discomfort, infertility, urinary incontinence, mastectomy pain, endometriosis, etc.)
What to expect during a session
In order to perform effective MFR, the therapist must have direct contact to the skin. This can be done while the client relaxes under a drape on a massage table, similar to a traditional massage. However, this work requires continuous full body sustained stretching and movements through releases and it is best for clients to come dressed in gym or beach attire. Men can wear shorts and a t-shirt, and women can wear shorts and a tank top or sports bra, or a two-piece bathing suit. Please do not apply any lotion or oil to your skin prior to your session.
MFR can be very relaxing, however there is such thing as, "therapeutic pain". When trauma is released from the tissue the body may undergo mild soreness, similar to the soreness felt after exercise. Allowing yourself to fully experience this discomfort is how healing occurs. By masking the pain with medication or discontinuing treatment may result in a continuation of the chronic issue you are dealing with. Much can be resolved in one single session, but follow up sessions may be necessary. You are the best judge of how you feel.
Elements of JFB-MFR
JFB-MFR consists of various approaches within the three main pillars: Structural Release, Rebounding, and Unwinding. Each aspect supports the primary goal of releasing restriction throughout the body. By integrating these elements, a client/patient can achieve amazing, lasting results.
The key to a structural release is patience. Much of the restriction we carry around with us every day has been there for a long, long time. It has become the new normal and we simply adapt to the discomfort. Applying slow, sinking pressure to the barrier of the restriction for a minimum of 5 minutes will encourage the tissue to soften. Notice I used the word, “sinking”, not “pushing”. This is one of the many big differences between JFB-MFR and traditional manual therapies. With JFB-MFR there is no forcing into the body. During a structural release it is highly possible to experience a level of therapeutic pain. Always tell your therapist if the pain to too great.
Additionally, structural release is focused on the cause of the restriction. As John Barnes has said, “Find the pain. Look elsewhere for the cause”. This is due to the web-like nature of the fascial system- one continuous sheet running throughout our bodies. If there is an imbalance in an area of our structure, for instance in the pelvis, this can cause a pull elsewhere. The area of localized discomfort may be a symptom of the pain and not the cause. Pain and tension in one area could be caused by a restriction elsewhere traveling deep into the body in any direction. Although you may not feel a lot pain (if any) in an area, this may be a primary area to treat. As you begin to experience releases throughout the fascia, you may notice a sense of rebalancing and areas of concern may simply resolve. The more MFR you give to yourself, the more aware you will become about your own body and what you need from day to day.
Throughout our busy lives we tend to feel a great deal of heaviness. Much of this heavy feeling is due to poor posture, sitting at a desk all day, thoughts of worry, emotional distress, or lack of movement. Although this heavy feeling can become very draining, it somehow becomes our state of normal.
Rebounding is a wonderful technique to help release this heaviness. The therapist uses a shaking or rocking technique which helps get the system reacquainted with the fluid nature of the body. Rebounding can be fast and rigorous, or soft and vibrational. It can be applied to head, neck, shoulders, rib cage, abdomen, pelvis, or any area of the body. Our viscera (organs), just love rebounding! It helps to relax the connective tissue supporting them. Rebounding is so healing for the spine, in that it helps this vital structure become softer and more flexible. And for someone who comes in with that heavy cloud feeling in the head, rebounding is just the thing to help disperse this energy by releasing tension in the membranous tissue surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Rebounding is a wonderful way to transmit a vibration via the fascial system and the body as a whole can gain a feeling of lightness.
When there is a release throughout the connective tissue, or fascia, the body may experience a phenomenon referred to as, "Unwinding". This can be a subtle release of vibrational energy within the tissue itself, or it can be a whole body unwinding. We’ve all experienced a version of unwinding. When you wake up in the morning and feel that need to stretch your body out, sometimes holding the traction for a few seconds or even minutes, you are actually unwinding. And after you have released that trapped energy, you find yourself in a more relaxed state. It is a completely natural process.
During a structural treatment of an area of your body, you may experience a flashback or memory of a particular trauma. This can be a physical injury, a traumatic emotional experience, such as abuse, abandonment, neglect, or loss. The body houses all our life experiences, and structural work may be tapping into a particular event. Many people have described this as a revisiting of trauma. But instead of taking on more of the trauma, the body is now ready to release it. However, unwinding can spontaneously occur, even without structural release. You may feel a need to move in fluid, spontaneous motions. There may also be an emotional release, such as screams, cries or bursts of anger. Unwinding is a very healthy form of releasing trauma. You can gain a sense of lightness and freedom following an unwinding. However your body chooses to express itself, know that you are in complete control and can stop the unwinding process at any time. Your therapist does not incite the unwinding, but rather it is something you experience for yourself. A trained JFB-MFR therapist fully understands how to support you through your unwinding and will ensure the experience is safe and therapeutic for you. As you learn your body has this capability, you can continue the process on your own through self-unwinding at home. Regular self-unwinding coupled with structural release is very healing and restorative.
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"
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.