Some sports massage therapists use myofascial techniques that focus on stretching the fascia, which are connective tissues surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments in the body. This particular massage technique involves the therapist applying forces in opposing directions which relaxes the tissues. It can help ease pain and increase mobility in the tissues and surrounding muscles.
The word myofascial comes from the Latin words ‘myo’ meaning muscle and ‘fascia’ meaning band.
Fascia is a connective tissue, also sometimes known as fibrous bands, which surrounds all muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, and organs within the body. The fascia consists of a network of hollow tubules made up of collagen and elastin.
Fascia itself is very strong, flexible and dynamic and so responds well to stretching. The fascia loses its elasticity through physical and emotional trauma and poor posture. This results in the fascia hardening and the general flexibility of both the fascia and the muscle it surrounds, decreases.
Myofascial release is a technique used by many sport massage therapists to stretch the fascia. Usually, the therapist will apply forces in opposite directions with the hands (or sometimes just the fingers when treating small areas), starting gently and increasing the force as they feel the tissues relax. Larger areas may be treated using the forearms. Once the therapist feels that the area is fully relaxed, they move on to the next area to be treated.
This form of treatment is very gentle and does not hurt. Many patients find it extremely relaxing. No oil or cream is used during myofascial release, as this allows a firm grip of the skin.
Myofascial release can be used to effectively treat many different conditions, including:
- Chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Back pain.
- Poor posture.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Tennis elbow.
Self Myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release can also be performed using a piece of equipment known as a foam roller. The patient lies their body weight on to the foam roller and moves slowly up and down the targeted muscle group to apply a stretch. If a painful area is felt, the patient rests on this area for 30-60 seconds. Using this technique at home in between professional treatments can help to improve the effectiveness of the treatment. This technique is most commonly used on the Iliotibial band along the outer thigh.