Myofascial Release is form of therapy that targets trigger points that can cause myofascial pain syndrome or tension throughout the body. While myofascial release can be an effective form of treatment on it’s own, it can be enhanced even further through the use of Shockwave Therapy.
It’s important to breakdown each of these components to make things easier to understand.
The connective web of tissue that surrounds and supports muscles throughout the body is known as fascia, or myofascial tissue.
Fascia is a collagen within the body, and it coats every muscle to act like a glue that keeps them together.
Whether from overuse, repetitive movement, and even in some cases, a sedentary lifestyle, myofascia can become stiff or tight and lead to pain in the body.
What is Myofascial Release?
Myofascial Release is a form of physical therapy that works to relieve tightness or tension in the soft tissue that often causes pain in the body.
Unlike traditional forms of therapy, or even massage techniques that simply isolate the direct area of pain, myofascial release will often work on a different part of the body that is “connected” to the painful area, such as joints like elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, shoulders and the neck.
Release Therapy, sometimes called Trigger Point Therapy, is a type of low-load stretch that eases the tension in the myofascia. This allows the tissue to return to a more pliable and flexible state, which reduces pain and increases movement and mobility.
What are Trigger Points and Trigger Point Therapy?
When a small area of muscle fibers and myofascia is bundled into a “knot,” blood flow to that region of the body becomes an issue that may lead to pain and inflammation. These knots are known as myofascial trigger points or simply trigger points.
Myofascial trigger points can grow so tense that they are felt beneath the skin and become sensitive to touch or pressure on the area.
The bundles or knots of tissue often cause what is called “referred pain.” Referred pain results in discomfort and irritation that can be felt in other connected parts of the body.
An example of this occurs when a person experiences pain in the knee that may be the result of restricted myofascia in the quadriceps, or the large group of muscles on the front of the thigh.
Trigger point therapy is the process of first locating the small bundles of fascia and muscle where these trigger points are located.
Trigger point therapy then releases the tension by applying sustained pressure to the area so that the tissue will release itself from the knot.
When the knot or trigger point is released, it increases blood flow to the area and decreases inflammation that causes pain.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Painful trigger points or knots in the fascia and muscles are unlikely to go away on their own. If left untreated, the pain can become chronic and develop into a condition known as myofascial pain syndrome.
Myofascial pain syndrome is a condition that is incredibly common and can affect anyone regardless of age or physical activity level.
It may be the result of a misalignment in the body that causes bad posture or a repeated movement, like constantly gripping a tool at work.
In addition, it may appear after a micro-tear in the tissue caused by improperly picking up something even moderately heavy, like a bag of groceries.
In athletes, myofascial pain syndrome is often the result of repetitive movements or overuse injuries combined with poor technique. For some athletes it occurs due to a lack of adequate warm up or cool down time.
The related consequences of myofascial pain syndrome result in trigger points and knots that leave behind pain long after it should have dissipated. In more severe cases, the pain begins to spread to other parts of the muscle and nearby joints.
Myofascial Release vs. Massage Therapy
Everyone knows that a regular massage feels good and can be especially useful for relieving general muscle aches and pains.
What most people don’t understand is a massage is not quite the same, or even as effective as myofascial release for treating or healing certain types of pain.
A typical massage is generally performed with lotions or oils that make it easier for a massage therapist to rub a person’s skin. The basic fundamentals of massage therapy involve a kneading or rubbing motion over the muscles.
On the other hand with myofascial release, a sustained pressure is applied in a targeted region of the body, specifically in areas where connective tissue is located.
When done properly, the applied pressure of myofascial release can help loosen the tense connective tissue, which further helps to improve the patient’s range of motion, resulting in increased blood flow and less inflammation and pain.
Myofascial release therapists usually apply the pressure in one location for several minutes at a time. This allows the soft connected web of fibers time to stretch and loosen up so they are not as tight or rigid.
One difference between myofascial release vs. massage therapy is apparent in that is performed without any lotions or oils.
By not using lotions or oils, it allows the myofascial therapist to better locate connective tissue that is bundled and knotted.
Shockwave Therapy for Myofascial Release
Shockwave Therapy, formally known as Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy or ESWT, is a non-invasive therapeutic method of delivering impulse pressure waves or “shockwaves” deep into soft-tissue and fascia.
This type of therapy is sometimes referred to as Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Treatment or simply, EPAT.
A Shockwave Therapy Machine delivers highly targeted energy pulses and pressure waves directly on trigger points or bundled soft-tissue to help break up knots more precisely than can be done by a myofascial therapist’s hands.
In fact, Shockwave technology is becoming an important tool used to improve the efficacy of myofascial release therapy for increasing blood flow to the area, creating new blood vessel formation, regenerating damaged fascia, and speeding up recovery time.
Shockwave helps myofascial release therapy become more efficient and often speeds up the therapeutic process.
This is important because in some instances, a person with myofascial pain syndrome may not be able to sit for myofascial release sessions due to the associated pain related to the sustained application of pressure.
Shockwave therapy is especially useful in this case because it can be applied with a soft pressure and gliding motion that will allow for a more continuous application of pressure as tension in the area is alleviated.
In other cases, the combination of shockwave therapy and myofascial release work to resolve the problem of myofascial pain syndrome much more quickly.
This is due in large part to the regenerative benefits and increased blood flow created by the targeted delivery of impulse pressure waves.
For anyone struggling with myofascial pain syndrome, it is worth considering myofascial release therapy combined with Shockwave therapy to speed up the healing process.