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Just what is myofascial release and what does it do?
I’ve read of how others generally define myofascial release, such as: Myofascial release is an alternative medicine therapy that claims to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood and lymphatic circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. Of course there’s this one too: Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. The pain usually originates from specific points within your myofascial tissues called “trigger points.” Or this one, Myofascial release focuses on reducing pain by easing the tension and tightness in the trigger points. It’s not always easy to understand what trigger point is responsible for the pain. Localizing pain to a specific trigger point is very difficult. For that reason, myofascial release is often used over a broad area of muscle and tissue rather than at single points.
None of the above actually tell you what myofascial is, or what it does.
First thing to know; Myofascial Release is just as generic a term as is massage. Many forms of myofascial release, many philosophies about what it is and they’re all accurate. However, we’ll start at the beginning with helping you understand what it is. Just as fascia runs through the body in different depths, there are many forms of myofascial release that have been touted as the ‘best’, yet, most only work on superficial connections. This can make us feel good for a little while but require ongoing work.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome / Compressed Joints
Myofascial pain syndrome; the best description I know of is this. You’ve complained of being in pain since…. Pick a date or event… you tell your doctor. You wind up with an MRI and the doctor tells you everything is fine. Fascia is stuck. Its wanting attention, and that’s where I come in.
What Fascia Does
What this fascia does is act as the ‘lubricant’ that allows organs and other muscles to move without sticking to each other. It’s a connective tissue, which has a beginning and ending with room to move in between. This tissue is around each muscle fiber, around each muscle, around each muscle bundle (IE the quads, the ham strings) it runs in layers through the body in a pattern connecting your body together to allow you to have physical definition and function. This connective tissue is what gives your human form definition. It holds skin to the body, it locks muscles when they’ve been injured, it gets stuck when you frown too often… hence the mouth and eye lines.
How does Fascia get stuck?
Fascia may become adhered when there is scarring from an injury or surgery and when you are dehydrated the fascia starts to shrink up causing muscles to have limited mobility, limited motility and pain.
What causes lower back pain?
In many cases, low back pain is associated with spondylosis, a general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
Most of the low back pain is mechanical in nature. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:
- Sprains and strains account for most acute back pain. Sprains are caused by overstretching or tearing ligaments, and strains are tears in tendon or muscle. Both can occur from twisting or lifting something improperly, lifting something too heavy, or overstretching. Such movements may also trigger spasms in back muscles, which can also be painful.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration is one of the most common mechanical causes of low back pain, and it occurs when the usually rubbery discs lose integrity as a normal process of aging. In a healthy back, intervertebral discs provide height and allow bending, flexion, and torsion of the lower back. As the discs deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability.
- Herniated or ruptured discs can occur when the intervertebral discs become compressed and bulge outward (herniation) or rupture, causing low back pain.
- Radiculopathy is a condition caused by compression, inflammation and/or injury to a spinal nerve root. Pressure on the nerve root results in pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation that travels or radiates to other areas of the body that are served by that nerve. Radiculopathy may occur when spinal stenosis or a herniated or ruptured disc compresses the nerve root.
- Sciatica is a form of radiculopathy caused by compression of the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. This compression causes shock-like or burning low back pain combined with pain through the buttocks and down one leg, occasionally reaching the foot. In the most extreme cases, when the nerve is pinched between the disc and the adjacent bone, the symptoms may involve not only pain, but numbness and muscle weakness in the leg because of interrupted nerve signaling. The condition may also be caused by a tumor or cyst that presses on the sciatic nerve or its roots.
- Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra of the lower spine slips out of place, pinching the nerves exiting the spinal column.
- A traumatic injury, such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall can injure tendons, ligaments or muscle resulting in low back pain. Traumatic injury may also cause the spine to become overly compressed, which in turn can cause an intervertebral disc to rupture or herniate, exerting pressure on any of the nerves rooted to the spinal cord. When spinal nerves become compressed and irritated, back pain and sciatica may result.
- Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves that can cause pain or numbness with walking and over time leads to leg weakness and sensory loss.
- Skeletal irregularities include scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that does not usually cause pain until middle age; lordosis, an abnormally accentuated arch in the lower back; and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
Other underlying conditions that predispose people to low back pain include:
- Inflammatory diseases of the joints such as arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae, can also cause low back pain. Spondylitis is also called spondyloarthritis or spondyloarthropathy.
- Osteoporosis is a metabolic bone disease marked by a progressive decrease in bone density and strength, which can lead to painful fractures of the vertebrae.
- Endometriosis is the buildup of uterine tissue in places outside the uterus.
- Fibromyalgia, a chronic pain syndrome involving widespread muscle pain and fatigue.
I must add, that the most common reason I find for low back pains in my clients are stuck psoas muscles. These are the core muscles that support the low back, attaching from mid thoracic/lumbar junction (T12) and connecting at the lesser trochanter of the hip. Often, when lifting a person tries to turn at the same time; this causes the psoas muscles to grip and hold on and refuse to let go. This compresses the lumbar region of the spine. Symptoms include not being able to stand up straight, not be comfortable lying down, walking up stairs or up hills, trying to stand from a seated position, shoulders being pulled forward, taking a deep breath may be difficult, urinating can be difficult. So many other things as well!