Written By: Amy Miller
Also known as Trigger Point Therapy, myofascial release is a soft tissue therapy that can ease chronic muscle pain caused by scar tissue adhesions in muscular (myo) fascia.
Fascia is a thin, tough, elastic type of connective tissue that wraps most structures within the human body, including muscle. Fascia supports and protects these structures but it can become restricted due to disease, overuse, trauma, infectious agents, or inactivity, often resulting in pain, muscle tension, and corresponding diminished blood flow. Damaged fascia is a leading cause of chronic pain and decreased flexibility.
A trigger point is a small patch of tightly contracted muscle, which cuts off the blood supply to that part of the muscle resulting in irritation, aching or down-right pain. Trigger points are a key factor in headaches, neck aches, back pain and many other common ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, ear aches, and toothaches.
Almost everyone has a head start in self-diagnosing trigger points, because almost everyone already more or less knows what it’s like to have a muscle knot. If you have ever had muscle stiffness, tried to massage out that annoying spot in your neck or back, then you already have some experience with this — you have trigger points. You have pain and stiffness that feels like it’s in your muscles.
Trigger point therapy has gained popularity among athletes, particularly runners and cyclists, but it is beneficial for even the most sedentary individuals.
There are indirect and direct ways to release myofascial tension and I love both! First, you can indirectly release the tissues by simply stretching, because fascia covers all organs of the body, muscle and fascia cannot be separated. When you stretch a muscle, you stretch the fascia around it, thereby releasing tissues that have become stiff from immobility.
To directly release the fascia, I perform a release technique similar to a deep-tissue massage utilizing tools like a foam roller and a hard ball. Using body weight on these hard surfaces, I locate the trigger points and then pause, placing as much pressure as I can stand on the spot and breathing deeply for 20-30 seconds and visualizing the tight spot melting into the rest of the muscle.
The first couple of weeks of release therapy will be painful. It is important to be diligent and commit to doing it every day for two weeks, because the payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller and/or ball every day, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the therapy not hurt as much, it will begin to feel good and you will be on the path to feeling great!