Myofascial release (or MFR) is just one of many varied soft tissue therapy for the treatment of skeletal muscle stiffness and pain. Although this is considered an ‘alternative’ form of treatment, actually it is most likely the most practiced form of treatment as often almost everyone presenting with ‘clinical symptoms’ has trigger points elsewhere evn at sub-clinical levels. MFR aims to improve contractility to muscles improving not only the muscles internal ability to reflexly contract and lengthen when needed but to also improve blood supply, improve drainage in both circulatory and lymphatic systems
So Whats affected – Is it just muscle ??
Well, not strictly speaking is is summised that muscle alone is the likely cause but part of the bigger picture. Another kind of tissue often is involved and at the forefront of current research. this tissue is called Fascia
So what is fascia ? well books, volumes and endless research have looked into what fascia is and does. the following is just a succinct overview of what it is and how important a part it plays in function and dysfunction.
Fascia is a specialized connective tissue layer surrounding muscles, bones and joints and gives support and protection to the body. It consists of three layers
- The superficial fascia,
- The deep fascia and the
- Sub-serous fascia.
- Fascia is one of the 3 types of dense connective tissue (the others being ligaments and tendons) and it extends without interruption from the top of the head to the tip of the toes and invests almost every single tissue. Loose is a category is a category of connective tissue and is the most common type of connective tissue in vertebrates. It holds the organs in place and protects when we exercise, it even surrounds blood vessels and nerves but is flexible enough to permit movement without damaging this loose but strongly binding tissue.
Fascia is usually seen as having a passive role in the body, transmitting mechanical tension, which is generated by muscle activity or external forces. Recently, however some evidence suggests that fascia may be able to actively contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and consequently influence musculo-skeletal (MSK) dynamics (movement)
Obviously, if this is verified by future research, any changes in the tone or structure of the fascia could have significant implications for athletic movements and performance. This research notwithstanding, the occurrence of trigger pointswithin dense connective tissue sheets is thought to be correlated with subsequent injury.
Trigger points have been defined as areas of muscle that are painful to palpation and are characterized by the presence of taut bands. Tissue can become thick, tough and knotted. They occur commonly in muscle-tendon junctions, occasionally in bursa (rare)
Often trigger points are accompanied by inflammation and if they remain long enough, eventually causing scarring long term adhesions in a tissue that should be elastic only to be replaced with inelastic scar tissue.
It has been speculated that trigger points may lead to a variety of sports injuries – from cramps to more serious muscle and tendon tears. The theory, which seems plausible, is that trigger points compromise the tissue structure in which they are located, placing a greater strain on other tissues that must compensate for its weakness. These in turn can break down and so the spiral continues.
According to many therapists, trigger points in the fascia can restrict or alter the motion about a joint resulting in a change of normal neural feedback to the central nervous system. Eventually, the neuromuscular system becomes less efficient, leading to premature fatigue, chronic pain and injury and less efficient motor skill performance.
What causes a trigger point to form?
The list is apparently endless, but amongst common triggers are
- Acute physical trauma,
- Poor posture
- Faulty movement patterns (developed by bad habits)
- Sport & exercise ‘over training’,
- Inadequate rest between training sessions and possibly even nutritional factors
Self myofascial release is a relatively simple technique that athletes can use to alleviate trigger points. Studies have shown myofascial release to be an effective treatment modality for myofascial pain syndrome ), although most studies have focused on therapist-based rather than self-based treatment so if you have been diagnosed with either a trigger point or suspect you have ‘knotty areas’ and need help, please get in contact and i’ll show you how you can treat and self manage these in the comfort of your own home !!!