Myofascial Release (MFR) for Mobility & Pain Management

What is Myofascial Release (MFR) and how is it different from Massage Therapy? 

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Myofascial Release is a hands on manual technique that our Doctors of Physical Therapy utilizes via gentle prolonged tensile forces to safely release restricted fascia.  

Myofascial Release differs from massage therapy in a couple of ways.  Unlike a massage, which uses lotions and oils to help glide the hands over the skin, Myofascial Release requires the skin to be oil/lotion free.  This improves the contact a practitioner has with their hands to the client’s skin in order to prevent unnecessary gliding or sliding. This is important because Myofascial Release is not about rubbing the skin or massaging the muscles.  It’s about applying a sustained tension force to the fascial restriction. This is achieved by first sinking the hands down to the level of restriction and then applying an opposing tensile force between either hand (i.e. compression, stretch, twist).  This then leads to the next major difference between Myofascial Release and massage therapy, time. For Myofascial Release to work each techniques should be held for a minimum of 90-120 seconds, with techniques sometimes being help for upward of 20-30 minutes.

Why do Myofascial Release techniques take longer to release?

By adding time, Myofascial Release does not rush healing, but instead supports the Piezoelectric Phenomenon. Unlike skin and muscle, fascia is a piezoelectric tissue, and when a piezoelectric tissue is subjected to prolonged durations of tension it generates a current of bioenergy, or information.  In the case of restricted fascia that information then facilitates a reorganization that allow the fascia to move more freely, and in turn improves circulation, range of motion, and pain.

What is Fascia?

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Fascia is connective tissue found within the body.  The filler of our internal nooks and crannies very similar to the white fuzzy substance that wraps around a slice of an orange.  Fascia is the spider web that connects the crown of our head to the tips of our toes and everything in between. To understand what fascia is, it first helps to grasp the concept of it’s structure.

Visualize a spider web. Although delicate in appearance the spider web is intentionally versatile, extremely strong, and vital not only because of its structural design but to the survival of the spider itself.  If a fly was to get trapped within a web, that fly not only affects the area of the web that binds it but changes tensile forces throughout the entire design, therefore acting as a form of communication to the spider.  The same thing happens in our body, with fascia.

What is fascia made of?

Fascia is made up of three main components, Collagen, Elastin and Ground Substance.  Imagine Collagen as the silk tread of the spider web, except in fascia these “treads” are hollow. Elastin are fibers that act just like elastic thread or the stretchy fabric found in our skinny jeans. It provides ease of movement during a stretch or compression of the fascial fibers.  Finally, the Ground Substance is the environment which the fascia resides. Ground substance (when unrestricted) is a liquid state that flows inside and out of the hollow collagen “threads” preventing their hollow design from collapsing, as well as lubricating the threads to assist in its movement of glide, slide and pull.

Where is fascia located in the body?

Fascia is everywhere, and because it maintains the form of our insides some would even argue that our entire body is just different densities of fascia. When looking at fascia from a less cellular viewpoint it can be described as sheets, bands, or mesh.  It surrounds every nerve, blood vessel, ligament, tendon, muscle, organ and bone in one form or another, and in doing so allows for an internal network that not only provides structure to our body but absorbs shock, and works as a transmission system signaling stimuli throughout the body.

Why is fascia important?

Our body is constantly trying to obtain a state of equilibrium but is in a constant tug of war due to all of the external demands placed upon it: physical activity, injury, hydration, nutrition, proper sleep, posture (just to name a few). When increased demands are placed on the fascia i.e. repetitive stress, immobility, extreme shock, lack of hydration etc. its structure can become deranged.  That derangement leads to instability and causes the ground substance to harden. This hardening causes fascial restrictions and is a way for the body to protect its structural integrity by limiting the motion available to the fascia and stiffening as a secondary method of “strength”. The problem that arises in the human body is that if fascial restrictions increase without ever releasing there can be up to almost 2,000 lbs per square inch of tensile force pulling on neighboring organs, arteries, nerves, muscles etc. Imagine that amount of force tugging on you and the affects it would have on your posture or pain levels.

This is why fascial restrictions can play a major role in pain and dysfunction because even after a bone or muscle heals after an injury, the fascial restrictions will not spontaneously release, nor can we say for example that an injury in the knee didn’t cause fascial restrictions in the back. Again, our fascial system is like a spider web and a tug on one end, can cause a change of structure on the other.

How are fascial restrictions treated at Mindful Matters Wellness?

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Through our holistic approach to physical therapy we acknowledge patients’ symptoms but treats the root of the problem.  At Mindful Matters Wellness we view physical therapy like a math problem. Someone might be able to guess the right answer, but wouldn’t it be better to gather the variables first before attempting to figure out the solution.  This is done by looking up and down the body’s kinetic chain as well as factoring in emotional components to physical healing. In addition to releasing restrictions for physical therapy rehabilitation, we also provide wellness bodywork sessions as preventative maintenance programs and overall well-being programs. All sessions regardless of want or need for prevention or rehabilitation are performed by doctors of physical therapy utilizing John F. Barnes MFR techniques.


If you’re Interested in seeking Myofascial Release treatment in the Milwaukee area visit our website at www.mindfulmatterswellness.com to learn more, or call 414-939-4991 or email info@mindfulmatterswellness.com to schedule a session.

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