The fascia is a layer of soft, connective tissue that can be found everywhere in the human body. It surrounds muscle groups within organs and binds them together. When this tissue becomes restricted due to disease, it can cause pain, muscle tension and decreased blood flow. Myofascial Therapy, also known as Myofascial Release, is an alternative therapy that eliminates the tightness in the fascia so that it can stretch properly when muscles stretch.
How Does Myofascial Therapy Work?
The therapist starts at the back of the neck to find the areas of tightness and then gently stretches the fascial tissue in those areas through a sustained contact with certain pressure points. These points are known as trigger points, extremely sensitive spots within a muscle that form nodules that can be felt. Trigger points are typically located in tight bands of muscle, and this tightness causes pain in more than one area of the body. That means that relieving a trigger point in one set of muscles can actually ease pain in other regions of the body as well.
The mechanism for this relief is believed to result from biochemical changes in the area being stretched that regulate blood and oxygen flow to the muscle. These changes may affect activity in the spinal cord that control mood and pain perception.
Stretching can cause transduction. This is the process by which a specific kind of stimuli is changed from chemical to electrical messages in the spinal cord that are then communicated to parts of the brain. These stimuli activate certain receptors that transmit pain messages to the brain. By changing the form of these messages, pain and other symptoms are reduced.
How Did Myofascial Therapy Originate?
This therapy is based on the treatment protocols of Dr. Janet G. Travell. She was President John F. Kennedy’s personal physician while he was in the White House. President Kennedy suffered from severe back problems, and Dr. Travell developed techniques to relieve his chronic back pain. It was Dr. Travell’s research that illustrated that each trigger point in a muscle has a specific pattern of pain that radiates to other parts of the body.
How Many Treatments are Necessary Before the Patient Experience Relief from Pain?
According to the National Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists, it is possible to experience pain relief after one treatment. However, other patients require a number of treatments before their pain lessens.
In addition, patients may experience soreness for a day or two after treatment. This will stop after the first few treatments. Another side effect of treatment is fatigue, resulting from the musculature that had been held in the tightened position for a long period of time relaxing and returning to normal. In some cases, the opposite is true. The shifting musculature causes some patients to feel an increase in energy. Another normal stage in the recovery is a change in the pattern of pain. This is also a result of the shifting musculature, and it is only temporary. Finally, the Association of Myofascial Trigger Point Therapists gives this advice to patients seeking to maximize the benefits of therapy:
“Returning to normal activities without pain is most often accelerated by adherence to the self-care program given to you by your therapist. Minimizing stress, pacing your activities and avoidance of overexertion (as well as focusing on what you can do instead of your limitations) are of prime importance. Good communication, patience and a positive attitude are essential.”