Myofascial release (MFR) has become a buzz word within the massage and physical therapy world. I began this article series by explaining what fascia really is, this article I want to tackle some mistakes and misconceptions made by many massage therapists (some physical therapists too). To begin, don’t be upset if your therapist is making some of these mistakes, they probably aren’t trying to be malicious, they just weren’t taught properly.
Schools are pumping students out into the workforce, and sometimes highly unprepared, they (schools) may not be updating curriculum to reflect new science.
1. MFR NEVER, I repeat, NEVER has a lubricant as part of the treatment. If a client requests a massage from me, I start with no oil or lotion. Why? To affect superficial fascia, you need friction…slow steady friction. Any gliding is no longer working with fascial tissue, only muscle. So, if your therapist says they are doing myofascial release and put oil or lotion on you, you didn’t receive MFR bodywork.
2. While massage therapy features kneading and stroking to relax the muscles, myofascial release uses sustained pressure to stretch and lengthen the connective tissue. Several minutes, yes minutes, of this pressure may be required to properly soften and align the fascia. So, if your therapist is slip sliding away, you are receiving a massage, not MFR bodywork.
3. Pain is NOT your friend, and it doesn’t belong in a massage session, let alone a MFR session. I can hear the groans now, “…but Lisa, I love deep tissue…” . Newsflash, deep tissue doesn’t have to be painful if you allow the superficial tissue to adjust and you move deeper gradually. This is typically where I start to talk about triggerpoints but I will save what a triggerpoint is and how to destroy those triggerpoints for a later blog! Instead I want to give you a quick peek into pain responses.
Quickly, muscles don’t register pain, nerves register pain…muscles move us! Half the battle of decreasing your pain is calming your nervous system. Creating pain during a massage is counterproductive to achieving a deep tissue massage. If you do work through the pain, the benefits of your massage won’t last as long as they should because your nervous system is in revolt. Loma Linda and Harvard University have published some pretty compelling studies on how our bodies register pain.
My hope is you take the information I give you and start conversations, remember that you are always your best advocate and it is important you understand what your therapist or trainers doing and why.
I would love to hear your comments, feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or, better yet, come spend some time on my table!
Remember, as always, it’s your call,
Lisa McNeil M.Ed, CFSS-M
A little from Dr. Dan, a little from Lisa but always a lot of good stuff!