The Importance of Self-Myofascial Release at home
By Taylor Paganini LMT O.T
Throughout history, the effects and facts of Myofascial release has been somewhat tarnished and questioned. I believe when human beings cannot physically see something that is right in front of them, they immediately try to discard it as evidence. Science has now discovered that symptoms, diagnostic labels, and disease are a blockage of our bio-energy caused by a prolonged inflammatory response. Trauma and the resultant of inflammation response create Myofascial restrictions that ultimately create the symptoms of pain and disease processes. Myofascial restrictions occur from trauma, surgery, and inflammatory responses. These traumas and inflammatory responses create myofascial restrictions that can produce pressures of approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch on pain sensitive structures that do not show up in any of the standard tests. (x-rays, MRI’s, myelograms, CAT scans, electromyography, etc.) This enormous pressure acts like a “straightjacket” on muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and osseous structures producing the symptoms of chronic pain, headaches, restrictions of motion, and disease. Some of these results of inflammatory responses that have outlived their usefulness are often labeled as: Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, bowel and menstrual disorders, cancer and the list goes on and on. Myofascial release allows the chronic inflammatory response to resolve and eradicate the enormous pressure exerted on pain sensitive structures by the myofascial restrictions to alleviate symptoms and allow the body’s natural healing capacity to function properly. Myofascial release views symptoms as only the “tip of the iceberg.” In other words, symptoms are effects of a much deeper cause.
I am sure a lot of you are reading this and saying to yourself, “myofascial what?” So let me explain fascia and myofascial restriction as simply as I can so you can all understand not only what I am speaking of but understand your body, pain and biology a little bit more.
To understand the term Myofascial release, we must first understand Fascia. In keeping this blog “science lite,” imagine a very strong dew-covered spider web encircling a shrub. And in between the gaps of the thread is a clear gel, rather than air. If you can picture this, then you are on your way to understanding the fascial system. This three-dimensional complex matrix, threads itself throughout our body. It surrounds our muscles, organs, nerves, bones, blood vessels, and even our cells. Everything is held together in in place by fascia. It is impressively flexible and infinitely adaptable. So because our fascia is a very strong, very connected ‘spider wed’, when one spot on it gets tugged, pulled or injured, the effects ripple throughout the body. This is why, for an example, we may have knee pain that has nothing to do with a knee injury, but everything to do with our lower back. The natural, fluid state of the fascia has been traumatized, causing it to harden and tighten. Ever pull a thread on a sweater only to find the whole thing bunch up on one side? That “bunching up” is exactly what happens to fascia when our body experiences physical or emotional stress, dehydration, injury, inflammation, repetitive activity-you name it. Our body reacts to pain of any kind by creating a protection response, that while, initially is a good thing, over time can lead to increased pain, buildup of toxins and reduced blood flow and oxygen to the area. When we experience a slight amount of tissue damage—this can be due to a physical injury, or a psychological one like depression, or even something like an ulcer—pain signals are sent to the spinal cord which then triggers the muscles around the injury to contract in order to provide support and protection for the surrounding tissues. This response, left unchecked, creates a vicious cycle of pain as more blood flow is restricted to the contracted area. More signals are sent, and more muscles tighten to protect the growing epicenter of pain. What may have started as something small has now grown—that sweater gets more gnarled and bunchy.
So now that we (hopefully) have a good idea of what our fascial system looks like and how it responds, let us begin to talk about why Myofascial release is one of the best therapies out there and what exactly is does for our fascial system.
What is Myofascial Release Technique (MFR)?
Myofascial release techniques (MFR) are designed to go in and smooth out those hard knots, returning the fascia to its normal fluid and adaptable self. But how do you ask? In MFR, a gentle, sustained pressure is applied to points of restriction (those bunched up spots), allowing the connective tissue to release. Picture a stick of cold butter. If you jab your finger into it sharply, you’re just going to hurt your finger, and not even make a dent in the butter. But if you place your finger on the butter, and apply gentle pressure, you’ll find you’re able to slowly sink into the stick of butter, melting your way into it. This is essentially what is happening when an MFR therapist works on the body, or when one performs Self Myofascial Release (SMFR) with myofascial release tools such as rollers and balls.
How can I do Self Myofascial release (SMFR) at home?
So whether or not you are working with a professional to target myofascial restriction and pain, everyone should be doing self -myofascial release on their own at home. This will not only alleviate and heal present symptoms of pain but will also prevent fascial restriction and dysfunction in the future. Here are some helpful tips and ways to begin SMFR and what you should be looking for and staying aware of.
Many times dysfunctional areas of fascia are described as “knots” adhesions” and scar tissue. There aren’t actually any “knot” under your skin, which I explained when going on our fascial system and what that restriction really is. But however it is described that makes it easier for you to understand and be able to find on your own body works. So let’s begin with what we will need such as tools in order to perform SMFR on ourselves. Objects such as a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, Thera band weighted ball, PCV pipe, gentle (when starting out) foam roller, and a Thera Cane are all great to use for SMFR. You may also use you own hands/fingers to palpate areas that are easily accessible such as your forearm, palm of opposite hand, abdomen, pecs (chest), and face/head. Over time it though it would be wise to work up to using a tool in order to get through more layers and receive better results. But now that we have the tools, what are we looking for? When looking for areas of myofascial restriction, here are a few helpful tips. When beginning to palpate the muscles to find those restrictions you want to be aware of:
1. Pain: unpleasant sensation that may or may not refer to other areas of the body.
2. Inability of the skin (epidermis) to slide over subcutaneous tissue
3. Dense areas of Tissue that are tender/sensitive with palpation
So once you’ve identified those areas, one at a time, place your SMFR tool under that area and lean into and/or put all your weight into it. While doing this, you may feel different sensations such as isolated/referral “pain”, burning, achiness, tenderness and sensitivity. All these sensations are normal but in order to get the results we want we must push through them with deep breathing and visualization. If for any reason you are feeling sharp pain then stop. But you will want to hang out in this position for at least 30 seconds or more until the tissue begins to release, so BE PATIENT.
At this point, if you’d like you may begin doing some “Pin and Stretch”, which can be used along with the foam roller in order to encourage broad motion to deep layers of tissue. Once we have a good bite on the tissue, we move through the range motion that is restricted and encourage new range through repetition, not force.
** Remember fascia is designed to transmit force so applying too much force can bypass the area you’re targeting. Don't move so far through range that you lose your bite on the tissue. If the restriction stops you from achieving the full movement pattern you're working on, then stop at the point of restriction and repeat.
You can find instructional videos and information about self-myofascial release and how to do on your own on our website: https://www.washparkchiro.com/video-library
Conditions that benefit from Myofascial Release:
Back pain Fibromylgia Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Disc herniations Myofascial Pain Syndrome Scoliosis
Jaw issues (TMJ) Neurological dysfunctions Neck Pain
Sports injuries Infants/children Sciatica
Headaches Whiplash Migraines
Chronic Pain Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Women's Health Problems:
Pelvic floor pain/dysfunction Urinary Urgency
Urinary Incontinence Vulvodynia
Infertility Problems Endometriosis
Mastectomy Pain Interstitial Cystitis
Painful intercourse Lymphedema
Menstrual Problems Urinary frequency
Coccydnia (tail bone) Adhesions
Episiotomy Scars Problematic Breast implant/reduction scars
* You can find more information about women's health issues and treatments on our website:
" A change in the shape of the body, creates a change in the state of the soul."-Aristotle
Taylor Paganini L.M.T, O.T is certified in Myofascial Release Technique, Trigger Point Therapy, AMMA, and Prenatal massage. Also certified in flame Cupping. Her techniques are to help unblock energy in the body and bring better mobility and functionality to the muscular and nervous systems in order to reconnect the mind/body experience.