Is Myofascial Release Worth It?
A few months ago I wrote an article on controversial treatments for various kinds of pain and other maladies.
I believe that controversy around a treatment doesn’t necessarily disqualify it from use.
I also believe that just because something is controversial doesn’t mean it’s something you should pursue. Sometimes there are bad forms of medicinal practice that are controversial for all the right reasons.
Myofascial release is a form of therapy I believe warrants some coverage. And it’s only slightly controversial, so that should count for something.
I think you ought to know about it not because there’s an overwhelming amount of clinical research to show it works; but because there are thousands, if not millions of people across the world who use it to help out with pain, increasing mobility, and helping to improve overall wellness
This particular therapy is closely related to Chiropractic care and is something you could find being done in most major metro areas. It’s inexpensive and poses a very low risk of side effects.
Let me show you what it is and highlight some of the key studies you may want to know about before signing up for a session.
How Myofascial Release Works and What It Helps
When it comes to pain relief and helping to restore the function of the body, people often turn to body manipulation to help.
That’s why massages and chiropractic are so common.
Myofascial release is a therapy that falls in line with bodywork but takes things a step further.
The operating theory around myofascial release is as follows (and this is a simplistic explanation).
All of the muscle groups that connect to your bones via ligaments and to your other muscles via tendons are bound up in an extremely fibrous tissue called myofascia or fascia.
If you’ve ever eaten a steak and seen a silver skin on the side of your beef you’ve seen fascia, and your muscles look no different.
Fascia can sometimes become too tense and restrict movement as well as cause pain.
So, to help ease that tension people turn to Myofascial release.
This technique works by applying firm and sustained pressure to certain areas of the body to release tension stored within the fascia (that thin layer of connective tissue that surrounds and supports muscles and organs).
The techniques therapist use are varied, and of course, some of what they do is determined by a patient's pain tolerance.
For those with very low tolerance to pain, the therapist will use their hands and fingers to help unbind fascia.
For those who can tolerate a bit more pain specialized tools that resemble metal blades are scraped across muscle tissue to break adhesions to cause the tissue to release.
This pressure helps to stretch and lengthen the fascia, which can become tight and restricted due to injury, overuse, or stress. By releasing these restrictions, myofascial release can improve range of motion, relieve pain, and promote healing in the body.
For many people, especially in today’s day and age, the pain they experience is due to lifestyle (like sitting all day long), and myofascial release provides relief from these kinds of complications.
Many people who use myofascial release do so to treat conditions such as headaches, back pain, and joint pain. Since it can be done locally it allows for the precise application of pain relief, something drugs cannot do.
In addition to pain reduction, myofascial release can also improve mobility and flexibility, which for people in their upper ages is a big deal.
By releasing fascia it can help to release tension on the joints, which can improve overall mobility.
What’s also great about myofascial release is how it can even help to improve mental health.
Stress and tension in the body often manifest in stress in the mind. This is why being able to help release bound-up tension in the muscles may help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can improve overall mental wellness.
Now I know I mentioned controversy and myofascial release and there is some.
Some experts believe that the benefits of myofascial release are overstated and that this therapy may not be effective for all individuals. Additionally, there is a risk of injury associated with myofascial release if it is not performed correctly.
Another thing people complain about is that myofascial release is not a one-time fix. Meaning, you may have to get it done over and over again for relief from pain.
But, in my opinion, if it works for a time and it requires subsequent treatments that’s preferable to being on painkillers 24/7.
The good news is there are studies to show myofascial release (MFR) really can work. Although I should admit sometimes the effectiveness of myofascial release depends heavily on the skill of the practitioner.
Take a look at some of the studies
"Myofascial release therapy on pain, pressure pain threshold, and cervical range of motion in breast cancer survivors with lymphedema" by Cho et al. (2021). This study investigated the effects of MFR on pain, pressure pain threshold, and cervical range of motion in breast cancer survivors with lymphedema. The results showed that MFR significantly reduced pain and improved cervical range of motion.
"The effects of myofascial release on chronic low back pain: A systematic review" by Ajimsha et al. (2015). This systematic review evaluated the effects of MFR on chronic low back pain. The authors found that MFR was effective in reducing pain and improving functional outcomes in patients with chronic low back pain.
"Myofascial release as a treatment for orthopedic conditions: A systematic review" by Castro-Sánchez et al. (2011). This systematic review examined the effectiveness of MFR in treating various orthopedic conditions. The authors found that MFR was effective in reducing pain and improving function in patients with musculoskeletal disorders.
- "Myofascial release therapy for the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review" by Jung et al. (2019). This systematic review assessed the efficacy of MFR in treating irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The authors found that MFR was effective in reducing abdominal pain and improving the quality of life in patients with IBS.
You can be the judge for yourself if it works, but I think there’s enough research and clinical evidence to demonstrate it’s a worthwhile therapy to pursue…and more than enough anecdotal evidence too, and I feel like you don’t have much to lose if you need relief from things like headaches, poor mobility, stress and more.