Myofascial Release & Injuries Explained

My own definition of myofascial release is this: The activity of breaking up excess scar tissue adhesions found within the fascial tissues, which surround the muscle (myo) tissues. Once "released" the muscle is able to be retrained for flexibility, range of motion and full function. This also applies to the often related nerve entrapments / problems.

There are many forms of myofascial release, in my opinion some are definitely more effective than others. Something that I have learned over time from watching what happens in the injury process, is that we are all walking accumulations of old injuries. I would see this time and again in my former aquatic therapy business. Now I see it daily as I learn about peoples activity histories.

It's simply a fact of the healing process of the body. It is a regular occurrence that too much scar tissue is formed. In most cases inflammation and the resulting restriction of blood flow is the primary reason why excessive scar tissue is formed. Scar tissue also has a strong tendency to continue growing after the initial healing process is complete. Either way, it acts like a spot weld between the fascial tissues of neighboring muscles, often with undesirable results. Think of a successful surgery, where after six months or so, the pain returns and the person feels the same or similar to what they did before the surgery.

Now think of each muscle in the body as being surrounded by a strong slippery film or sheath of material, this is the fascia. The fascia envelopes each muscle and at least ties into, if not actually forms the tendons on both ends of every muscle in the body. It also surrounds the entire body below the layers of skin and fat. With this "filmy" fascia, the idea is for the muscles to be able to move easily and fluidly past each other.

When an injury occurs, inflammation happens as part of the healing process. The problem is that inflammation; along with triggering the healing responses of the body, restricts blood flow to the affected area. With that, the muscle is not supplied with enough oxygen and nutrients. It also restricts the ability of the muscle to clear waste products. This creates what is called "hypoxia", basically meaning that the muscle is polluted and dysfunctional. This injury state has stages varying from a fresh injury with fluid surrounded "lumpy" tissues, to the advanced stages of a muscle being leathery, tight and dysfunctional. The latter stages perpetuate the hypoxia in large part due to the muscular tension and dysfunction. The muscles become unable to contract and relax, therefore losing the "pumping action". It's this pumping that drives the blood flow most effectively in the first place.

Scar tissue may form within the muscle itself. Very often it forms within the fascia surrounding the muscles that have been injured. Some is fine, too much is the problem. Once there is too much scar tissue, it tends to bond more and more tissues together. This leads to less movement and more problems. The hypoxia actually perpetuates the growth of scar tissue, so that over time a minor issue gradually becomes worse. Because of all of this, breaking up this excess scar tissue is the primary focus of what I do at Zemper Restorative Therapy.

Using particular methods of tensioning the muscle as it is moved through it's range of motion is the basic idea. As the muscle is tensioned, it is also lengthened. This releases much of the "pollution" or hypoxia in the tissues, immediately allowing for better function. Scar tissue is not as flexible as muscle tissue, and whether it happens immediately, or after several sessions, the excess scar tissue adhesions are broken apart. Once the muscles are "released", following the prescribed stretching program will keep the muscles moving freely past each other. The body then recognizes the damaged scar tissue as waste material, and clears it from the body. This then leaves only the amount necessary to take care of the original injury.