What does Myofascial Release do?

Even if you don't recognize the name, you will probably have already experienced Myofascial Release; as well as being a stand-alone therapy, the techniques are widely used by massage therapists, osteopaths and physiotherapists to manage pain and improve posture.

Also called MFR, it is suitable for all postural related problems and can be successful for:

  • Joint pain
  • Back pain
  • After surgery
  • IBS
  • Problems with periods
  • Pelvic pain and incontinence
  • Knee pain
  • Scarring
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Sciatica
  • Frozen shoulders

Why does it work?

The fascia is stronger than muscle and found all through our bodies; it wraps the muscles and muscle fibres, bones and organs. Its function is to operate like Castrol GTX, lubricating and allowing the fibres and organs to move smoothly against each other while being held in place.

When functioning well the fabric of the fascia is in a gel like state, but when injured it can be dry and adhesive, jamming up the smooth operation. Imagine a thick knitted jumper, if you pull a thread in the hem, there will be a wide-ranging effect on the fabric; the whole hang of the garment will change at the front. In the same way, an injury or adhesion to the fascia which is in one place, can show up as pain or distortion in another part of the body.

All kinds of physical therapy will affect the tissue that wraps the muscles, but there is a specific range of techniques that wholly focus on stretching and releasing the fascia.

You can have an experience of the fascia right now - stretch your arm out strongly to the side with your fingers splayed wide. Maintaining the stretch, slowly rotate your arm backwards. You may experience a slight burning sensation, just under the skin; this is the fascia stretching as your arm twists.

What happens in a Myofascial Release session?

The therapist will do different kinds of assessments:

  • Your medical history, including information about the duration and site of the pain.
  • A postural assessment to see where there are misalignments or asymmetricality.
  • A physical assessment - palpating the fascia to find the problem areas.

You will only be asked to undress to your underwear or sports clothes, just enough to access the required areas.

There are different ways of releasing the fascia according to the nature of the problem and the orientation of the therapist, but most use sustained pressure with their hands and arms (between 3-10 minutes), without oil. Your treatment might also include:

  • Some initial muscle massage to warm the area
  • Rubbing to warm up the fascia and loosen adhesions
  • Passive stretches
  • You may be asked to move while the therapist uses pressure to get a more profound stretch

The strength of the stretches will vary widely according to the therapist you see, so if you have a preference for particularly strong or gentle work, check that out with your therapist beforehand.

Long-term problems will take a series of treatments before you can expect to see an improvement, recent issues can be sorted out with one or two single treatments. There are a variety of responses afterwards but it's not uncommon to feel sore or lightheaded. As with all body treatments it's a good idea to drink lots of water and take it easy afterwards.

Who should have Myofascial Release?

If you have the sort of symptoms described in the first paragraph, Myofasical Release is perfect where muscular based massage has failed to make a permanent difference. While it shouldn't be painful, it's not a gentle, relaxing treatment, so if your goal is to de-stress you should choose something different..


The term Myofascial Release was coined by osteopath Dr. Robert Ward who had studied with the Grandmother of bodywork and creator of the famous 'Rolfing', Ida Rolf, in the 1940's.