I came across a fascinating study the other day that researched the efficacy of myofascial release massage for improving neck pain in patients. Astonishingly, the researchers found evidence that myofascial release massage could be better than a PT program for short-term improvement of pain and pressure pain thresholds.
Of course, more research is needed to scientifically prove just how effective massage can be for helping people manage pain. Nevertheless, as someone who practices myofascial release massage to the benefit of my patients, this study gave me great hope that the scientific community is finally beginning to understand how massage therapists can use this modality to bring more relief to people who are suffering from chronic pain.
How is Myofascial Release Massage Different From Other Forms of Massage?
Myofascial release massage is massage…but it’s unlike the “traditional” forms of Swedish or Deep Tissue massage that you might be familiar with. MRM is a form of bodywork, but the most significant difference is its focus and the techniques used.
When your fascial system is “constricted” (meaning, it has lost its elasticity or has become dehydrated), you can experience a range of issues, from stiffness to excruciating pain to ruptures in the tissue (think: athletic injuries).
Targeting the fascia specifically, a practitioner uses gentle pressure to hold specific areas of the body for a moment until releasing the pressure point. This is done over and over again, until the patient begins to feel the gradual relaxation of the muscle tissues. This is because the fascia has been “released”—the flow of blood and increased hydration to these areas through the gentle, sustained pressure of the bodywork rejuvenates this system, allowing it to spring back into action.
Wait, What’s Fascia?
MRM focuses on treating the fascia, the interconnected, honeycomb-like web of collagen and connective tissue that lies just beneath the skin and surrounds and supports all of our muscles, organs, and cells. Fascia is challenging to define in one breath, but it’s best described as a system that supports the internal structure of your body. There is superficial fascia as well as deep fascia, which surrounds individual muscles. Fascia also keeps tissue connected to the bone.
Is Myofascial Release Massage a Form of Physical Therapy?
Myofascial release massage is a form of physical therapy in many ways. After an injury or surgery, many doctors will send you to a physical therapist to help you regain your mobility. Depending on your symptoms, a physical therapist may use a manual therapy like massage to improve your range of motion and alleviate pain. A PT will gradually start to incorporate more active exercises into your treatment plan, but massage is an effective treatment that PT’s use to help their patients.
In that way, I will argue that MRM is a bridge between massage and physical therapy. For so long, the fascia has been ignored when it comes to role that it plays in how our bodies function. By treating fascia specifically–and science is now catching up to this!—massage therapists can offer people a chance at a pain-free, more mobile, healthier life.
Beyond neck pain, I have seen great results using myofascial release massage to treat my clients who have fibromyalgia, arthritis, and chronic headaches. As a therapist, I like using this technique because I can work on the body’s tissues layer by layer, helping clients regain their mobility one movement at a time.
Struggling with chronic pain? Want to prevent injuries and keep your fascia healthy? Feel free to ask me anything about myofascial release massage.