MyoFascial Release and Wellness of Tampa Bay

HEATHER SABIN BRYAN, PTA 15707, LMT 79159 MM 35592, RYT

What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial Release (MFR) is a gentle, safe, highly effective, whole-body approach to treating the fascial system. Myofascial Release uses skilled, manual techniques to apply gentle, sustained pressure into the fascia to reduce and eliminate fascial restrictions. Myofascial Release spends 5 minutes or longer at the tissue barrier, which allows the facial to release naturally—not by force, like in other methods. Myofascial Release has been extremely successful in treating all levels of pain, restoring function and mobility, and improving overall cellular health.

The fascial system is considered one of the most influential systems of the body due to its anatomical and physiological role. To fully comprehend Myofascial Release, it is important to understand the significance of fascia. The “myofascial” or “fascial” system is a three dimentional web of connective tissue that surrounds, infiltrates, and connects every tissue, organ, and cell of your body from head to toe, and skin to spine. Its function is to provide support and structure to the body, and to work as a bracing mechanism from injuries.

Fascia, or connective tissue, is made up of collagen, elastin and ground substance. Collagen and elastin act as shock absorbers, provide structure, and give the body its ability to stretch and recoil. Healthy ground substance is a gel-like substance that transports water, proteins and sugars to all the cells of the body. When fascia is damaged, the ground substance loses its fluidity and solidifies. Damaged ground substance places up to 2,000 pounds per square inch of pressure on delicate nerves, blood vessels, organs, muscles, and bones. This crushing pressure causes pain and dysfunction.

It can be difficult to visualize the impact of this tissue. A good comparison is in a bowl of gelatin with pieces of fruit floating in it. The fruit represents the muscles, bones and organs, while the gelatin represents the fascia. Just as all of the fruit is suspended within the gelatin, the body’s muscles, bones, and organs are suspended within the fascia. When the gelatin is jiggled in one area, it causes movement throughout the bowl—very much like the fascia does in the body. The fascia is a continuous web that responds to tensions throughout of the body, with the energy being easily transferred through the tissue.

MFR techniques involve the therapist applying three to five minutes of precise and sustained pressure on the patient’s body. This sustained pressure creates powerful phenomena: piezoelectricity, mechano-transduction, phase transition, and ultimately resonance and release. The end result is the rehydration of the fascial matrix, the return of fluids through the ground substance, and a significant reduction of crushing pressure on sensitive structures throughout the body. This brings relief to the patient and allows him or her to return to full function.

John Barnes, a physical therapist, developed MFR 50 years ago to address his own severe back pain that was not resolved with surgical intervention. He knew first-hand that scar tissue from his back surgery, along with multiple sports injuries over time, had made his body tense and uncomfortable. Divine intervention and superior intellect led him to begin applying pressure to the areas that were painful and restricted. He was amazed that such tremendous relief could come from something so simple! He realized then that the importance of fascia had been overlooked in Western Medicine. Thus, he began his lifelong study of fascia and its role in human health, and he developed a unique, hands-on approach to healing— Myofascial Release.

What is fascia?

Fascia Fascia is a strong, connective tissue that spreads throughout the entire body. Fascia is similar to the threads in a fabric. It is an interwoven, fibrous net that covers and encapsulates every structure in the body including bones, muscles, organs, nerves, and blood vessels—all the way down to the cellular level. Fascia surrounds every single cell in the body!

Much like poking the edge of a bowl of gelatin can jiggle all of the gelatin in the bowl, problems with fascia are not necessarily limited to a specifc part of the body. Because fascia encompasses the whole body, people often experience pain and symptoms in one area, even though the restriction is in a completely different part of the body. For instance, a patient experiencing headaches may have restrictions in the pelvis and lower back.

What is the role and function of fascia?

Fascia at the cellular level creates the environment and space each cell needs to perform its essential functions: cellular respiration, elimination, nutrition, protection, metabolism, and lymphatic flow. The fascial system binds the human body into an integral whole to allow proper function of structures and organs. It is fascia that keeps us upright against gravity to support our posture and movement. Fascia also acts as a shock absorber, which makes its elasticity and fluidity crucial to protecting our body from injury and trauma. In a normal healthy state, fascia is hydrated and pliable, with the ability to glide and stretch freely. Through injury, trauma, surgery, overuse and postural compensations, fascia loses its natural form and becomes twisted, hardened, and tough—similar to leather or beef jerky. Prolonged stress, tension, and emotional upset can also contribute to fascial restrictions.

Myofascial restrictions are believed to exert crushing pressure on the muscular and skeletal systems, as well on other pain sensitive structures like nerves and blood vessels. This enormous pressure—more than 2,000 pounds per square inch—is equivalent to a horse standing on a penny. It’s no wonder we hurt! Restrictions can also create pressure on organs, which over time can lead to dysfunction and disease. Because fascial restrictions do not show up on any standardized tests, such as MRIs, CAT Scans, EMGs, X-Rays, or even blood work, many patients are suffering with unresolved pain, dysfunction, loss of motion, and unexplained symptoms.

It can be difficult to visualize the impact of this tissue. A good comparison is in a bowl of gelatin with pieces of fruit floating in it. The fruit represents the muscles, bones and organs, while the gelatin represents the fascia. Just as all of the fruit is suspended within the gelatin, the body’s muscles, bones, and organs are suspended within the fascia. When the gelatin is jiggled in one area, it causes movement throughout the bowl—very much like the fascia does in the body. The fascia is a continuous web that responds to tensions throughout of the body, with the energy being easily transferred through the tissue.

What causes Myofascial restrictions?

Why is Myofascial Release so effective?

IMG_0302Most traditional forms of treatment simply treat the patient’s symptoms while ignoring the underlying cause. This explains why so many patients only experience short-term results or eventually reach a plateau in their healing. If a patient’s condition continues unresolved for a significant period of time, he or she may slowly begin to experience “new symptoms” while their original condition grows more complex and becomes more difficult to manage. The John Barnes Myofascial Release Approach (JFB-MFR) has proven to be highly effective because it treats the person as a whole, including the entire myofascial complex. Each patient is evaluated, assessed, and treated as a unique individual, and treatment is specific to their needs and goals. The JFB-MFR Approach creates long-term, permanent changes that carry over into a personal lifestyle while bringing awareness to the body-mind connection. The goal of Myofascial Release is to eliminate pain, restore function and movement, and help patients find authentic healing so they can achieve the highest quality of life possible. This is the future of healthcare.

How does fascia impact women’s and men’s health issues, and why is pelvic treatment so important?

Bladder Issues—Bladder issues are releived with MFR because it decreases the tightness and spasm in the pelvic floor muscles and tissues surrounding the bladder. Not addressing this tightness can lead to Urgency, Frequency, Incontinence, Overactive Bladder, and Leakage.

Endometriosis—Endometriosis is inflammation in the lining of the uterine cavity or endometrial cells that leads to pelvic pain or infertility. MFR decreases tightness and fascial restrictions surrounding the pelvis to eliminate inflammation and pain.

Infertility—MFR decreases tissue restrictions in the abdominal area, pelvic floor, and surrounding reproductive organs to enable conception and ensure the healthiest pregnancy possible.

Interstitial Cystitis—Interstitial Cystitis causes frequent urination and urgency associated with pain in the pelvis and bladder that increases as the bladder is filled. It can also be associated with painful urination, painful intercourse, and pelvic floor dysfunction, which can make it difficult to initiate urination. MFR decreases tightness and fascial restrictions surrounding the pelvis and bladder to restore normal bladder and reproductive organ functions.

Menstrual Problems—This can be noted by irregular or painful menstrual cycles. MFR decreases tightness in tissues of the abdominal area and pelvic floor to achieve regular, pain-free menstrual cycles.

Pelvic Pain—Tension in the fascia can lead to chronic and persistent pain throughout the pelvic and abdominal areas. MFR releases the tissues surrounding the pelvic and abdominal areas to relieve symptoms.

Pudendal Nerve—Entrapment is a type of chronic pelvic pain that is caused by compression of the pudendal nerve by tight fascia, muscles, or internal scar tissue/adhesions. Symptoms include pain, tingling, numbness, burning, or stabbing sensations in the vulva, vagina, urethra, rectum, and perineum. This condition is also associated with painful intercourse, impotence, bladder or bowel incontinence, and discomfort while sitting. Pudendal nerve entrapment can also be caused by pregnancy, surgical scarring, and trauma/accidents. MFR can help by providing gentle, sustained, hands-on stretching into the areas of fascial restriction. MFR can restore the necessary flexibility to the system, which will reduce pressure on the pudendal nerve. This helps to eliminate pain and improve the ability to sit, engage in intercourse, and maintain continency.

Scars— Hypertrophic, hypersensitive, painful, burn, and mastectomy scars are caused by fibrous tissue that develops when the skin heals after trauma, surgery, or burns. These scars often lead to pain, sensitivity, numbness, tingling, or dense buildup of tissue in affected areas. MFR reduces tightness of scar tissue, which will alleviate pain, restore normal sensation, and decrease thickness of scar tissue.

Vulvodynia—Vulvodynia is persistent vulvar burning, pain, and discomfort. MFR decreases tightness and tissue restrictions surrounding the pelvic area and reproductive organs, which eliminates problematic symptoms.

What is Pediatric Myofascial Release?

bumm_369_lgBirth Injuries is a wide category that includes any trauma that a baby may experience during the birthing process or immediately after being born. Use of forceps, posterior births, breach births, and anything that can add stress or physical trauma to the newborn is considered a birthing trauma. Myofascial Release (MFR) can help to improve soft tissue mobility, tighten muscle tone, decrease abnormal movement patterns, and increase overall functional mobility. Although MFR does not eliminate the dysfunction in the baby’s brain, it does help to minimize tightness in the fascial system, which helps improve overall mobility, flexibility, and function. MFR can also help eliminate seizures and the need for seizure medications, prevent or slow joint contractures, improve posture, and decrease pressure within the joints. MFR is very effective for individuals with cerebral palsy or any other type of abnormal functioning of the body, but should be part of a comprehensive treatment program. MFR is especially beneficial during growth spurts, a significant loss in functional mobility, or if seizure activity returns or increases.

What is Aquatic Myofascial Release?

A Mermaid Fascial Freedom™ session begins with a brief standing postural assessment on the pool steps in our beautiful indoor pool. The patient then enters the delightfully warm, 94-degree saltwater therapy pool either by the stairs or the hydraulic lift. Special neoprene leg floats designed for aquatic bodywork are wrapped around each leg, just below the knees. New silicone ear plugs are offered and fitted to water-sensitive ears. Then, a soft, supportive fabric float is placed under the patient’s neck and  he or she leans back and floats serenely with the therapist assisting and keeping the patient safe at all times.

Floating in warm water is deeply relaxing and therapeutic. The properties of warm water such as hydrostatic pressure and buoyancy help create changes in the body that alleviate edema and pain, and create improvements in the patient’s range of motion. Lasting pain relief is possible when immersion in warm water is combined with Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach© techniques. A Mermaid Fascial Release™ session generally lasts an hour and provides a three-dimensional, hands-on treatment to many areas of the body.

What is Myofascial Release Yoga?

The word Myo means ‘muscle’ and the word fascia means ‘band’ or connective tissue, so when you hear the phrase myofascial yoga, or myofascial release, we are talking about connective bands and spaces all around and within the muscle. It is helpful to think of fascia as a bridge between the physical body and the yogic energy system. Yoga philosophy emphasizes the layers of subtle energy—or prana—that link us to an expanded field of consciousness. This energy body houses our life force and higher consciousness, which trickles down into our physical body. Without the ongoing process of prana entering our body, we very quickly get lethargic, depressed, or sick. One of the many reasons yoga is so wonderful is because it puts practitioners in touch with the energy body. From there, we can learn how to rejuvenate ourselves on all levels.

In the yogic system, the body is considered a mirror of our belief system, and our connection with Divinity. But how exactly does this work? How are subtle thoughts and beliefs held in our energy body mirrored in the physical body? How does the prana entering our system slow down or get restricted in the physical form? My feeling is that understanding fascia and how it works as a system is the key to understanding this cosmic mystery.

What should I expect with Myofascial treatment?

Each Myfascial Release (MFR) treatment session is performed directly on skin without oils, creams or machinery. This enables the therapist to accurately detect fascial restrictions and apply the appropriate amount of sustained pressure to facilitate the release of the fascia. A posture analysis is performed both while standing and lying down to find the beginning layers of the restrictions. Men are asked to wear sports, and women are asked to wear a bathing suit or a bra and shorts. Please note that women should not apply lotion prior to treatment. The treatment begins with the therapist applying various techniques within the body’s limits, never forcing the body beyond its natural range of motion. The highly-skilled therapists can feel subtle changes within the tissue and are acutely aware of pain and tissue limits, which is why the therapist rarely needs to ask about pain levels during treatment. The patient’s tissue gives the therapist constant feedback that allows the therapist to adjust pressure appropriately during the treatment. However, regardless of the therapist’s expertise, the patient’s feedback is always welcome!

Treatment can feel different for each person, and varys by the acuteness of pain and level of restrictions. In general, the sensations are gentle but powerful. The sustained stretch on the fascial tissue held by the therapist can feel subtle at first but grow in strength. Patients may feel anything from a feeling of being stretched, temperature changes, a reproduction of pain, or a feeling as though the tissue is vibrating. It is even common to experience strong emotional responses because the tissue may be holding energy from past physical or emotional traumas. As the tissue releases these sensations subside, leaving new mobility in previously restrained tissue.

Due to the new alignment of the body and the corresponding changes in the tissues, it is normal to experience muscle discomfort a day or two after treatment. Fatigue is common because areas that were previously tight are looser and likely weak. The sensation of pulling or stretching can be felt if bone alignments are corrected, because it can create stretches on previously shortened tissue. However, although soreness may occur, the muscles are not be damaged and improvement in sensation and mobility are soon to follow.

What should I expect for my first treatment?

The first appointment typically takes two hours, but may be shortened, if time is a factor for the patient. During the first appointment, we review of your intake form to determine if there are any changes in your pain or dysfunction. Next, the patient will receive hands-on treatment and the appointment will end with the implementation of a myofascial self-care program personalized for the patient’s needs, through goals and written/visual aides, a viewable PDF file, and/or a self-treatment tool. Any questions the patient may have can be addressed after the hands-on session, and the patient’s specific needs and goals will be discussed. The patient’s self-care program is always available for review, progression, and revision at the end of each session, and any additional questions and concerns may be addressed at any time via phone or email. The patient may also opt for a follow-up phone or email consultation within 24 to 36 hours of the appointment.

How many sessions do I need?

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ answer to how many sessions a patient needs. The number of sesssions required is dependent on each patient’s personal needs. For some people, even just one session can impart a lifetime of changes. The truth is that some problems are simple and others complex—everyone needs a different amount of treatment, though patients typically feel improvement within the first couple of treatments. Most chronic conditions don’t happen overnight, and therefore cannot be unraveled overnight, either. It takes time to overcome tissue memory—especially if the trauma happened long ago—which is why regular maintenence (or ‘homework’) is so important. Therapy is a tool the patient should utilize to help him/herself achieve true rehabilitation, but regardless of what the patient is trying to treat (e.g., myofascial problems, dental issues, weight gain), the key to success is maintenence. The goal is to return the patient to peak level of performance. In most cases, maintenance or intermittent follow-up is helpful to prevent the return of symptoms, and to keep the patient at his or her optimum. Maintenance treatments are a great way to review and revise the patient’s self-care, and they are a wonderful way to stop any new issues from becoming problemmatic.

For Further Information

Email Heather