What is Myofacial Release?
Myofacial Release (MFR) is a specialised physical therapy technique used for treatment and rehabilitation of soft tissue and facial tensions and restrictions.
'Myo' refers to Muscle and 'Facia' is the web of connective tissue surrounding muscles and tissues in the body. Take a look at the image on the right. The Facia is the white bands of tissue, running through the muscle and forming the white bands and tendons at the end of the muscles and covering the joints and bones.
Fascia is made from strong elastic fibres of collagen and elastin embedded in a matrix or ground substance. It surrounds all tissues in the body providing cushioning, support, stabilisation and communication between tissues. It enables us to move safely without restriction or pain.
Following injury or trauma the fascia scars and hardens at the effected site and along tension lines. The Facia can nolonger perform its cushioning function at this site and may cause tension on surrounding structures and along tension lines. This is why a tight scar on your toe may cause you referred pain in your heel!
Myofacial Trigger Points are hyperirritable spots located in a taught band of muscle causing local and referred pain.
How are Myofacial Restrictions treated using MFR?
Therapists are taught to feel and slowly stretch the facial network. It is different to simply massaging an effected area because a time component exists. The fascia cannot be forced because it is designed to resist force! Sustained gentle pressure for a minimum of 2 minutes must be applied to allow the fascia to elongate naturally and remodel, thus restoring it to its normal resting length.
When is it useful in horses?
MFR therapy is an excellent adjunct to chiropractic treatment. It can be used to help release any muscle tension that is causing spinal restriction as well as on primary muscle injuries and to aid rehabilitaion following lameness or surgery. It is very safe and can be carried out daily if required. A new scar cannot be treated for 3 months, but MFR can be used in the area around wounds and surgical incisions to aid rehabiliatation and maintain function of surrounding tissues. Most horses love the treatment and will become extremely relaxed, dropping their heads and frequently yawning.