Myofascial release therapy is a type of gentle, constant massage that releases tightness and pain throughout your myofascial tissues. First, your healthcare provider will locate trigger points, or knots, in your fascial tissues. Then, they’ll gently apply pressure until they feel the tension release.
Myofascial release therapy is a hands-on technique used to manage myofascial pain. “Myo” means muscle. “Fascial” refers to the connective tissue that covers and supports the muscles throughout your entire body. During myofascial release therapy, your therapist doesn’t focus specifically on your muscles. They focus on releasing tension in your fascial tissues.
You can think of fascia like a spider web. The stringy tissue is densely woven throughout your muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, veins and organs. Your fascia is one continuous structure throughout your body. Each part of your body is connected to it in some way. That’s why if there’s a snag in the tissue in one part of your body, it can cause pain in another part of your body.
Normally, fascia is flexible and stretchy. But it’s strong. It provides structural support to your body and protects your muscles. Fascia is usually able to move without any restrictions. When your body experiences any kind of trauma, your fascia loses its flexibility. It becomes tightened and more rigid. The tightness can lead to pain and loss of motion, which can affect your quality of life.
Yes. Myofascial release therapy is also called myofascial trigger point therapy. This is because myofascial pain originates in various trigger points in your body. These trigger points are stiff areas in your fascial tissue. They feel like small bumps, nodules or knots in your muscles.
Tightened trigger points can restrict your muscle and joint movement. You may have pain at the site of a trigger point or widespread pain throughout your body. Myofascial release therapy focuses on releasing the tension in these trigger points.
Myofascial release therapy may help anyone who has tightness in their fascial tissues. Myofascial release therapy may benefit people who have experienced:
Myofascial release therapy may be used to treat many different health conditions. These conditions include:
During your myofascial release therapy sessions, you’ll work with a healthcare provider trained in myofascial release therapy. Your provider may be a:
Your sessions will take place in a private room at your provider’s office. Your provider will first locate the fascial tissues throughout your body that feel stiff and tight. These areas are commonly called trigger points or knots. Once they find the knots, they’ll apply gentle, constant pressure to these areas.
Your provider will use direct contact on your skin. They won’t use any oils or lotions. They need to be able to feel the tightness in your fascia. The pressure will be applied slowly in an attempt to lengthen your fascial tissues. Your provider will knead and stretch your fascial tissues repeatedly. When they feel the pressure and tension release, they’ll move on.
After your provider performs myofascial release therapy, you may feel sore in the areas they stretched. But the soreness should go away fairly quickly. You should feel a lot looser in those areas than you did before.
For the greatest benefit, you’ll need to see your provider consistently. They may recommend treatments every one to three days. Each session will last 15 to 50 minutes. Your provider may recommend returning for sessions for a few weeks or a few months. It will depend on the cause and severity of your condition.
Researchers haven’t studied the benefits of myofascial release therapy as much as other massage therapy methods. But myofascial release therapy has many potential benefits. These benefits may include:
Myofascial release therapy, like other methods of massage therapy, doesn’t have many risks. Rarely, myofascial release therapy can cause:
If you have any of the following conditions, talk to your healthcare provider. They may suggest avoiding myofascial release therapy or trying a different kind of therapy.
You can perform myofascial release on yourself at home. You can find videos online with basic myofascial release techniques. You’ll use a foam roller or roller massager to gently apply pressure to your fascial tissues. Some studies have shown using a foam roller for self-myofascial release has helped increase joint range of motion. You should ask your healthcare provider before trying any self-treatment.
Fascial stretch therapy is another type of manual therapy that focuses on the fascial tissues. Fascial stretch therapists don’t apply pressure to certain areas of your body. Instead, they manually move part of your body (such as your arms or legs) to stretch your fascial tissues.
If you’re interested in myofascial release therapy, talk with your healthcare provider. Many osteopathic physicians are trained in myofascial release therapy. If your provider isn’t trained in the therapy, they may be able to refer you to a provider who is. Healthcare providers who perform myofascial release therapy include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have pain in your myofascial tissues, ask your healthcare provider if myofascial release therapy could be right for you. While research hasn’t proven the technique is 100% beneficial, it may help reduce or eliminate your pain. Your healthcare provider may recommend a more traditional type of therapy. But it’s worth discussing all of your options with them.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/15/2022.
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