Myofascial massage therapy is also known as “Myotherapy” or “Myofascial Release”. Studies describe it as a form of physical therapy used to treat or prevent pain caused by sensitivity and tension in the fascia or myofascial tissues, or by the restricted movement of the joints.
In case you are wondering what myofascial tissues are, according to research, they are thin layers of fibrous connective tissues surrounding, separating, and supporting the muscles throughout the body. Areas in the body that they can be found include but are not limited to ligaments, tendons, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels.
Myofascial therapy focuses on reducing pain by releasing the tension and stiffness that stems from certain points called “trigger points” in the myofascial tissues. The therapy is often applied over a broad area of muscle and tissue instead of single points, and this is because mapping pain down to a specific trigger point can be a bit difficult.
Common Symptoms of Myofascial Pain
Pain that is caused by tension and sensitivity in the myofascial tissues, or by restricted joint movement is referred to as “myofascial pain”. People suffering from myofascial pain can experience a wide range of symptoms commonly associated with the condition.
According to studies, common myofascial pain symptoms include deep and constant aching, muscle tightness, sore trigger points in the muscle, numbness, stiff joints or reduced joint movement, recurrent tingling, including prickling or ‘“pins and needles” sensation.
The History of Myofascial Massage Therapy
Myofascial massage therapy began as was a concept proposed as alternative medicine by Andrew Still. He happens to be the inventor of osteopathy, who promoted the myofascial release concept along with his early students.
Still’s concept was formalized in the 1960s by Osteopath, Robert Ward, and physiotherapist, John Barnes with the term “myofascial release.” As a result, both Ward and Barnes are considered the primary founders of myofascial massage therapy.
Myofascial Massage Techniques
Treatment for myofascial pain using myotherapy is dependent on the assessment made by the myotherapist involved. That said, according to research, myotherapy includes a wide range of techniques to improve the integrity of the muscles and other soft tissues.
Techniques used in myotherapy include soft tissue manipulation, trigger point therapy, passive stretching, myofascial cupping, dry needling, corrective exercise, tens machine, and hot/cold therapy. Rest assured you won’t be spending the whole day for your session, as using any of the techniques mentioned typically lasts up to an hour each.
What Happens During A Myofascial Therapy Appointment?
A myofascial massage therapy session typically involves focusing on identifying pain trigger points in the muscles within the focus areas of the massage, using gentle pressure strokes. Increased pressure strokes are then introduced to release the tension and stiffness in the identified pain trigger points.
According to research, lots of questions will be asked by a myofascial massage therapist about your pain symptoms on your first appointment. Therefore you should remember to carry along x-ray films, including any other medical test results that give clear information regarding your condition.
Give the myotherapist supporting information about your medical history, including any prior illnesses or surgeries you have had. You should also provide a list of prescribed drugs you have been placed on for your treatment. All this information is treated as confidential and used by the myotherapist to help diagnose the cause of your symptoms, including identifying pain trigger points for your myotherapy treatment.
As a part of the initial examination, the associated muscles and affected joints where you are experiencing pain will be thoroughly examined, and your reflexes also tested. This examination aids the myotherapist in ascertaining if your symptoms are indeed myofascial and deciding whether or not to refer you to another healthcare specialist for further diagnosis or treatment.
Managing Ongoing Myotherapy Treatment
After your first myotherapy appointment, you can still revisit your myotherapist if you feel your condition is not improving or is getting worse. Your myotherapist may need to carry out further assessments of your condition to identify factors that could be worsening your condition.
Factors that may be worsening your condition could range from poor posture to scoliosis, or overtraining. Once these factors have been identified and your myotherapist can then work out ways to help you reduce their effects on your health.
Having said that, If it so happens that after every technique has been applied and it is certain that your condition cannot be changed or improved, either due to arthritis or changes to the spinal discs as a result of aging for older patients, the myotherapist will then need to develop a pain management program that may involve referring you to other healthcare specialists.
Myofascial Self-Massage Recommendations
Aside from your myotherapy massage session, your myotherapist may recommend treatments you can administer to yourself at home after, including dietary changes you can also adopt.
These recommendations include, but are not limited to exercises and stretches specific to your condition, self-administered massage, the use of heat packs and ice packs, including relaxation techniques including meditation.
Benefits of Myofascial Massage Therapy
Although myofascial massage therapy is beneficial to a wide range of people. Studies show that it regularly benefits certain patients who suffer from myofascial pain syndrome.
It has also been revealed to offer relief to people who suffer from lower or upper back pain, including people who encounter chronic headaches and neck pains. Gentle myofascial massage of the muscles located in and around the affected areas helps to treat the pain.
Myotherapy also benefits people dealing with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), a painful condition that occurs when blood pools or accumulates in the deep veins of the leg, instead of flowing back to the heart. This could eventually damage the leg veins, but the pooling and pain could be treated by combining myotherapy and other forms of treatment.
Risks Involved With Myofascial Massage Therapy
Despite its wide range of pain reduction benefits, from relaxing sore muscles or easing body pain, myofascial massage therapy is not for everyone, and it does come with a few of its own risks just like other forms of physical therapy.
Examples of people for who myofascial massage is not ideal include people suffering from burns, injuries, or painful wounds, people with weak bones, fractured or broken bones, people with deep vein issues, or taking blood-thinning medications.
In a few cases which are quite rare, research explains that massage therapy may cause internal bleeding, nerve damage, temporary paralysis, or limited mobility, including allergic reaction to lotions, oils, or gels.
How and Where To Find A Myotherapist
If you’re interested in trying myofascial release and would like to get a myofascial massage from a myotherapist or myotherapy practitioner, There are a few suggestions for you on how to go about your search.
Before you begin your search, it is advised that you discuss your intention with your physical therapist, doctor, or GP and seek professional advice about it. Your physician could make recommendations or referrals to qualified myotherapy professionals you can visit.
Friends and family might also know a massage therapist they can refer you to, but you could also carry out an online search or check online directories for qualified massage therapists that you can visit for myotherapy massage treatment services.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do you know if your fascia is tight?
If you would like to locate where exactly there is tightness or tension in your fascia or myofascia tissues is tight, you could try foam rolling. It is a great medium through which your muscles can communicate tight spots in need of release.
Does myofascial massage hurt?
You may feel tired or relaxed after your myofascial massage, however, most people experience an immediate feeling of relief. Aches and pains are common for around 24 hours after your treatment as the body flushes the toxins that have been released out.
Do massage therapists do myofascial release?
Massage therapists are among the various types of healthcare professionals who can provide myofascial release therapy. Others include but are not limited to trained osteopathic specialists, chiropractors, occupational or physical therapists, and sports injury specialists.
Can you do a myofascial release on yourself?
The frequent use of myofascial release tools has been shown to help with the prevention of muscle stiffness in the body. They can also help manage hip or leg pain due to limited flexibility or mobility.
A myotherapist or myofascial massage therapy professional may recommend self-massage tools you can use at home, including dietary changes you can also adopt for myofascial pain management.
Is myofascial release safe?
Myofascial Release has been proven to be a safe and effective form of physical therapy that eliminates pain and restores mobility using the gentle application of sustained pressure into affected myofascial tissues.
We all experience pain at various points in our lives. While some are manageable and non-threatening without any need for external help, some are not.
Having said that, whenever you experience unbearable or long-lasting pain, it is important that you consult your healthcare provider as soon as possible for evaluation and treatment.
Luckily, myofascial pain can be reduced or prevented with the right treatment! There is a chance of you achieving great success with myofascial massage therapy, but it is also important that you’re aware of the potential risks involved, just as you would with all forms of medical treatment.