If you have followed me for a while, you will have heard me refer to Myofascial Release as one of my preferred therapies in treating my Fibromyalgia. I personally have gained benefit from this therapy and continue to have a treatment once a month.
Recently, I was part of a study carried out by my Clinical Massage Therapist, Lisa Satchwell on the effects of Myofascial Release in the treatment of Fibromyalgia. Throughout the study she used Indirect Transverse Plane Myofascial Release for 6 continuous weeks. This very gentle form of Myofascial Release is perfect for Fibromyalgia sufferers especially those who are flaring at the time of treatment and cannot tolerate the pressure of more traditional massages.
Lisa has kindly allowed me to use an extract for her dissertation which explains Myofascial Release and quotes the benefits from some studies that have been undertaken.
Myofascial release (MRF) is a specialised manual therapy used to treat and rehabilitate soft tissue and fascial restrictions and tension. “Myo” means muscle and “fascia” means band. The majority of fascia runs longitudinally in the body, however there are several horizontal planes, known as traverse fascial planes. The most important of these are pelvic diaphragm, respiratory diaphragm, thoracic inlet and cranial base. These areas also align with the levels of spinal transition which are the greatest areas of stress along the spinal cord. (Duncan, 2014).
MFR techniques are very different to that of massaging soft tissue, it is gentle and often extremely relaxing. Therapists are taught to apply gentle sustained pressure, into the fascial network feeling for the gluey like texture of the collagen, which when dense, thick or hard defines a fascial restriction. Over time (approximately 5 to 8 minutes) the fascia is allowed to naturally elongate and return to its normal resting length restoring health and providing results that are both measurable and functional.
Liptan’s (2011:99) own experience demonstrated the effectiveness of MFR. Initially she had intensive treatment (sometimes 6-8 hours a week) for a few months, reducing it to weekly, then monthly and then as and when required. Liptan (2011:99) noticed the following changes in the body: a reduction in the fight or flight response, tissues felt more relaxed and sleep improved.
Accordingly to Schleip (2003) sympathetic nervous system activation causes increases in facial tightness and reducing fascial tone and through stretching and manual therapies, the fight or flight nervous system activation is decreased. In the same study he also stated that “any intervention on the fascia is also an intervention on the autonomic nervous system”. Fascia’s mechanoreceptors are stimulated by touch, which in turn, activates the parasympathetic nervous system response. Touch and stretching, can be perceived therefore to induce relaxation.
Only a few studies can be found in the research literature that investigated the effects of myofascial release (MFR) in fibromyalgia. Two studies by Castro-Sanchez et al (2010 and 2011), demonstrated that MFR techniques significantly improved pain, anxiety, sleep quality, physical function and quality of life in fibromyalgia and that the technique could be used as an alternative therapy for patients. Liptan et al (2012) undertook a pilot study that compared MFR with Swedish massage therapy, where the MFR group reported consistent pain reductions and reduced symptoms compared to Swedish massage treatments.
Other studies using similar techniques have also found to have pain relieving benefits in fibromyalgia. Osteopathic manipulation, that incorporated MFR techniques was found to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms more than medications on their own (Gamber et al, 2002) and a study by Brattberg (1999), using connective tissue massage (a technique related to MFR) also showed pain relieving benefits of 37%, reduced depression, the use of analgesics and positively affected participants quality of life.