Written by Lauren Cadman, PT
Structural myofascial release involves applying a gentle, sustained pressure into areas of tightness, or restriction, and waiting for the tissue to release. The pressures are never forced, but rather, work with the body's system. The therapist's pressure is applied gently reaching into the barrier of the tissue restriction. What is first felt is the is the elastic component of the tissue giving way. The goal of structural MFR is to reach into the collagen or fascial barrier. The key to the release is "waiting". Additional time spent holding the pressure (beyond 3-5 minutes for each restriction!) enables your connective tissue to fully ‘melt’ and lengthen. Science is telling us that there is yet another benefit to waiting long enough to allow for a phase change in the tissue. Beyond 5 minutes, your body will begin producing interleukin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory! This response is only elicited when pressure is sustained and uninterrupted. It is critical to note that structural myofascial release can only be performed on dry skin. Using oils or creams during treatment means the therapist is sliding on your skin and therefore unable to properly sustain pressures that release and melt restrictions in your body.
We all have an innate ability to self-correct tension, postural imbalances, and tissue restrictions which we do through natural, intuitive movement! When you first wake up in the morning and have that urge to yawn, reach and stretch a bit before getting up out of bed; you are experiencing this mechanism. Similarly, when you’ve been sitting at the computer for too long and feel the urge to reach your arms up over your head and arch your upper back over the back of the chair getting a nice stretch through your arms, chest and shoulders, you are essentially self unwinding. Many times during treatment, when the therapist and patient are very centered and the patient is tuning into their body, there is a sense of "letting go" and the body starts to feel the freedom to move into areas of restriction and habitual holding patterns. This myofascial unwinding brings the patient to a deeper level, clearing tension and the sensation of the "straight jacket effect" that so many of us feel has our bodies entrapped in. This can be a very freeing experience for patients!
Think back about what it feels like to float on a raft in the water? Feeling the gentle rocking motion, resonating throughout your entire body. This can be extremely relaxing and soothing. Why does this feel so good?? Well, we are approximately 75% fluid, and when rocked or bounced, an internal wave of motion and energy begins to form and move through the fluid inside our bodies. If the rocking is gently sustained and continued over time, as with myofascial rebounding, this fluid motion perpetuates and begins to reach and affect the solidified or hardened areas of our bodies. This wave gently starts to effect those tight, restricted areas giving opportunity for softening and fluid movement. With rebounding, every cell of your body can be reached and the cells begin to communicate with one another. This communication helps to access and clear out those habitual holding and bracing patterns which may be stuck in our bodies due to a buildup of stress and trauma. Rebounding is a key component of myofascial release and may be the missing piece that can eradicate bracing and holding patterns to eliminate the cycle of symptoms.