What is Myofascial Release (MFR)?
We are all familiar with the phrase “stress is stored in the body”; the fascia is physiologically where stress of all kinds is held, and it can cause havoc, both physically, and also emotionally. Tension in the body can have a big impact on our emotional health, energy levels and general attitude to life as well as causing excruciating pain, tightness and associated symptoms. Holding on so tightly is hard work!
Myofascial release, using the John F. Barnes approach, is a gentle, hands-on, whole body treatment which addresses the cause of your problem, not just your symptoms. John F. Barnes (JFB) is an American physiotherapist who developed this way of working with the body’s connective tissue, which is known as the fascia. The fascia is a tough connective tissue which spreads throughout the entire body in a beautifully chaotic, uninterrupted, multi-dimensional web from head to toe. It surrounds every structure and system in the body, as well as being part of every cell and fibre.
The fascia is also the body’s defence mechanism. When any form of injury, accident, trauma (physical or emotional), stress, threat etc occurs, the fascia tightens, ready to fight, freeze or run away, or take whatever action is required to maintain life. Unfortunately, what often happens, is that this tightening does not release once the threat/trauma etc has passed, and so the fascia gets tighter and tighter over time, a little like a ratchet gradually pulling more and more of the fascial web into a state of stuckness. What was originally a healing mechanism becomes a threat to life in itself. Fascial restriction is responsible for a vast amount of pain and limited motion, as well as many other symptoms people are often told to just get on with. Fascial restrictions can exert pressures of up to 2000lbs per square inch on pain sensitive structures such as nerves and blood vessels. This can cause chaos within the body, leading to many unfavourable symptoms, limited functionality and a lowered quality of life.
Every person has their own set of myofascial restrictions that in severe cases is comparable to wearing a personalised straitjacket that limits you completely. MFR recognises the individuality of each person who comes for treatment, and responds to your symptoms, your body, and YOU. MFR never forces or leads, it works with the body, utilising the inherent healing wisdom within us all. The body is designed to work. Given a little help, which we all need at times, it is pretty good at returning to it’s own optimum level of function, increasing quality of life, reducing symptoms and relieving long held stress, tension and negative patterns, both physically and emotionally. Our bodies and minds are intrinsically connected; as we release tension from one, we release the other as well.
Nothing in the natural world is linear and therefore nothing in the body is linear. We are 3-dimensional fluid beings, prey to the forces of nature such as gravity. If you look to nature, you will see there are no straight lines. It is hard for us to think in multiple dimensions, and so hard to get beyond the traditional way of working in healthcare (and life in general) where we try to do things in a logical, straight lined manner. MFR looks at the body as a dynamic, whole system, recognising that the place we feel pain or discomfort is often not the source of tightness/restriction. The whole body must be treated to bring about maximum relief of symptoms, stress, tension and pain. Within the body, everything affects everything. For example an injured foot can lead to altered gait, affecting pelvic alignment, which then has a knock on effect on how the torso is held, painful shoulders, sore necks, and headaches. We may not notice this chain of events occur and therefore only be aware when the chain of reaction reaches the head and causes headaches. Part of MFR involves listening to the body and following the signs and patterns that lead us to the source of restriction, rather than just the symptoms.
No straight lines in nature….
What happens during treatment?
After an initial assessment, you will be treated using hands-on techniques that work to gently release fascial restrictions throughout the body. Through palpation and seeing how your body moves, areas of tightness will be identified, and skillful treatment applied to affected areas. As the fascia is a whole body system, treatment with Myofascial Release aims to have a positive impact on the entire body. During treatment you may experience the advanced therapeutic movement aspect of Myofascial Release known as Myofascial Unwinding. This utilises the body’s inherent wisdom and allows for deep, and effective releases of old, restrictive patterns held within the connective tissue system. Through a combination of Myofascial Release, Myofascial Unwinding and also Myofascial Rebounding, long lasting relief and positive change can be experienced. Where appropriate, you will also be taught various self treatment methods so that you are able to continue the progress made during treatment between sessions.
Please wear shorts (and sports bra for women) or an equivalent you are comfortable with for treatment as myofascial release is practised directly on the skin. You will be covered with a sheet or blanket during treatment.
What happens after treatment?
Myofascial release works to address deep restrictions and habitual patterns within the fascial system (which is all the connective tissue within the body). Your treatment session will have helped to start the process of releasing, unravelling and unwinding these patterns. This does not end once you are out of the treatment room; the fascial system will continue the work begun in treatment to find healthier, freer patterns. This may continue for hours or even days after treatment. This is completely normal. You may find yourself wanting to stretch or move in ways you would not normally. You may feel energised, tired, relaxed, emotional, calm, quiet, exhilarated, grounded, moody, or anywhere in between.
Healing is a process, and not a one off event. This means that over the next few days following treatment, you are encouraged to listen to your body, and support this process as much as possible. Whatever comes up, you are encouraged to flow with it, and to be gentle with yourself. Please drink plenty of water to help the body rehydrate and flush toxins out of the areas that were restricted. If you are tired and are able to, then rest. If you feel like you want to move or stretch, then trust your body, and follow those movements and stretches. You will sometimes experience strong sensations, but never push into pain that feels injurious.
Most people feel improvement immediately, however some may feel sore, or temporarily stirred up. This is part of the healing process. Just like with any other therapy or form of treatment, you may feel worse before you get better. This is normal, and will pass. Your body is shifting it’s alignment into healthier ways of being. As restrictions in the fascia are released, and the body works to integrate the treatment, you may feel achiness in unfamiliar areas, or in rare instances, feel sore all over. This may be your body asking for more attention as deeper layers of restriction are uncovered. Gently stretch these areas if you can. In most cases, any soreness will dissipate within a couple of days of treatment, and then you will feel freer within yourself. Follow up treatment is recommended to continue the progress made.
“I have been seeing Claire for some months now for a chronic pelvic condition and she has been caring, understanding, thoughtful and most of all very respectful of my problems and issues (especially as they are very personal in nature). She is also extremely good at researching and keeping up to date on the latest ideas to help and move things forward.
I would not hesitate to recommend her to other patients who have the same chronic pain issues as myself (Pelvic Pain).
She will tailor the sessions to your own body and how you are feeling that particular day and she is frighteningly good at knowing the source of problems and the sessions are never the same twice so it keeps your body guessing (in a good way). I know that I would be in a far worse position if it were not for Claire’s expertise and knowledge, I am very grateful to her.”