Related Methods of Recovery: Myofascial Release

by Lindsay Miller
with Steve Kravitz Physical Therapy

Developed in the 1960s by an osteopathic physician, Myofascial release, is a method of hands-on therapy that releases pain and tension with slow, prolonged stretching to affect a change in the connective tissues of the body, otherwise known as fascia. Think of the fascial system as a giant web internally wrapped around the entire system of the body surrounding every structure. It is one, head-to-toe, continuous unit, existing without interruption that permeates the body and enables all systems to operate in an integrated manner.

Myofascial release is unique because many injuries are not necessarily muscular in origin, but are connective tissue injuries within ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, and other fascial structures. These injuries may create pain in the local area or seemingly unrelated areas of your body, known as referred pain, and is commonly thought to derive from trigger points. Trigger points are described as hyperirritable spots in the fascia surrounding the skeletal muscle where it is often difficult to know the exact source of the pain. The goal of myofascial release is to find the source of the pain and treat it with specificity, whether it is a fascial structure or a trigger point, to smooth out tension and restore mobility. New research supports the importance of maintaining healthy fascia in functional training and general exercise, considering it is the governing layer to our muscles. Due to the connective tissue having ten times as many sensory nerve endings as muscle, maintaining healthy fascia plays a major role in the movement, function, and position of the body during physical activity and everyday life.   

Dr. Steve Kravitz, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.T., owner of his private practice for 20 years, offers myofascial release treatments that help patients regain function and flexibility along with reducing and treating chronic pain. He says, “We offer a unique form of Physical Therapy by providing a one-hour, hands-on approach that is tailored to the patient’s specific needs.” Dr. Kravitz has also earned advanced certifications in over ten therapeutic disciplines including Myofascial Release and Trigger Point Therapy. He explains, “We pay special attention to the fascial system in each patient, where we identify problem areas and use manual therapy throughout the fascia to treat the whole body as a unit, rather than individual parts like traditional rehab.”

As a doctor of physical therapy, certified in therapeutic massage and bodywork, Dr. Kravitz combines many hands-on modalities to provide an effective, lasting, therapeutic, benefit through his progressive approach. Dr. Kravitz and his team of trained and accredited doctors of physical therapy use techniques that aim to mobilize and stretch the fascia in an attempt to free up the whole region of the body that is restricted. This creates greater flexibility, reduces pain, and improves functional and physiological movements.

Dr. Gena Thurston, P.T., D.P.T., C.I.D.N., of Steve Kravitz Physical Therapy says, “Myofascial release is an extremely effective way to access any layer of tissue tension. Often times, doctors refer to tight areas as trigger points and use injections with pharmaceutical substances to try and relieve the area.” She has also found dry needling as an adjunct to myofascial release highly effective and says it is a “swift treatment method for reducing these myofascial trigger points,” while avoiding the use of toxic substances.

One of the many benefits of Myofascial release is how relaxing the actual treatment can be for the patient. It is delivered through varying degrees of light touch to deeper pressure, which is highly effective at smoothing out the multiple layers of fascia, muscles, and surrounding structures. Patients often share how thrilled they are, because, during myofascial release, the patient can lie down and be relaxed throughout the entire treatment. The health benefits can be felt for weeks and months while still enjoying a calming restorative experience during the treatment itself.

There are a plethora of modalities to choose from when it comes to chronic and acute pain. Most common are chiropractic treatments and massage therapy. Chiropractors mainly use spinal manipulation to restore the mobility of the joints restricted by tissue tensions. While this can be effective at providing temporary pain relief, if the fascia is left untouched it will revert back to its previous state. Myofascial release aims to release these specific governing layers around the joint. This way, the joint and the associated tissue can remold into alignment without adjusting the bones beneath.

Although massages can help decrease tension, stress, and pain, these techniques can often glide over the problem spot and sometimes cannot access the deeper layer where the source of the problem exists.  Myofascial release therapy aims to specifically locate these problematic areas in the body and release this tissue tension for improving physiological function, decreasing pain and tightness, and restoring optimum health.

According to Dr. Kravitz, when pain and tightness occur in the body, it is best to go to a professional to be evaluated and treated. While pain and tightness may occasionally resolve naturally, if the discomfort persists, this can cause long-term issues in the body. Many people feel they can manage with self-care techniques like self-massage, stretching, rest, ice, heat, or pain medications. However, self-care methods may not address the deeper issue.  Myofascial release is effective at finding and releasing abnormal tissue tensions to help reduce the chance of long-term dysfunction, repetitive stress injury, and muscular imbalances to help improve overall flexibility, function, and athletic performance.