Fascia is a thin, tough, elastic type of connective tissue that wraps most structures within the human body, including muscle. Fascia supports and protects these structures and connects them from head to toe. It also binds them to the skin and fat covering them.
Fascia is aligned into pathways (meridians) that connect specific muscles together in straight, angling and spiraling patterns which very often coincide with the meridians of acupuncture. Fascia not only weaves into muscle tendons, ligaments and joint capsules but also transmits tension along these meridians from one muscle, bone, ligament et cetera to another. This is called ‘transduction’ and it is now considered a form of communication between muscle groups which coordinates and facilitates motion 7 times faster than the impulses that are transmitted through nerves.
Myofascial release (or MFR) is a soft tissue massage therapy for the treatment of muscle immobility and pain. The aim of MFR is to free ‘fascial restrictions’ between the layers of muscle that appear to disrupt proper transduction and nervous system feedback. This relaxes contracted muscles, improves blood and lymphatic circulation, and increases water’s capacity to bind to these tissues to limit friction. This approach was first described in medical literature by the originator of osteopathic medicine, Andrew Taylor Still. The term arose some 60 years later with the work of osteopath Robert Ward D.O. He was friends with the biochemist Ida Rolf, who created another deep tissue mobilization technique known as Structural Integration or Rolfing. While Ward is credited with much of the development of MFR, there is overlap with Rolfing and Ida Rolf should be given some credit in the area of direct techniques. They did not live to see the explosion of research into the nature of fascia and tensegrity over the last two decades, but this only makes their understanding of the body and treatment approaches all the more impressive.
Myofascial release is personalized to the patients’ needs following assessment of symptoms, posture and mobility. It can be a stand alone treatment but it is even more effective when combined with other osteopathic manual therapies.