Science behind Myofascial Release
What is Myofascial release?
Myofascial release (MFR), was invented in the 1960s by Robert Ward, an osteopath who studied with Ida Rolf. Ward, along with physical therapist John Barnes, are considered the two founders of Myofascial Release. Barnes described MFR as a safe, effective way to apply gentle, sustained pressure to connective tissues to eliminate pain and restore movement. MR is practiced by osteopaths, physical therapists, chiropractors, and licensed massage therapists (Barnes, 2012; Tappen & Benjamin, 2000).
Self-MFR or SMFR, as the name implies, is a myofascial release you can do yourself.
In recent years, fitness professionals began teaching patients how to use MFR on their own to manage their pain, using foam rollers, massage sticks and balls and other tools. There are growing number of studies about the benefits of MFR and SMFR.
Benefits of SMFR or MFR studied:
Improve flexibility and range of motion (Mikesky et al., 2002, MacDonald et al., 2013, Sullivan et al., 2013, Roylance et al., 2013, Jay et al., 2014, Halperin et al., 2014, Bradbury-Squires et al., 2015, Peacock et al., 2014, Grieve et al., 2015, Škarabot et al., 2015)
Modulate autonomic nervous system activity (Kim et al., 2014, Chan et al., 2015).
Decrease muscle soreness (MacDonald et al., 2014, Pearcey et al., 2014, Jay et al., 2014),
Affect arterial function and vascular endothelial function (Okamoto et al., 2014)
Many of these studies suggest that the exact mechanisms of SMFR and MFR can be explained better when we fully understand the role of fascia (Langevin, 2021). Many clinical theories of pain syndromes are associated with fascia. Fascia surrounds and penetrates muscles, organs, joints, nerves, and vascular beds, so fascia is everywhere in our body. Fascia supports the whole body's structure and has a clinical role in chronic illnesses and disorders George et al., 2023). Recent studies revealed that fascia is highly innervated with small diameter fibers (Langevin, 2021) and nerve endings (Fede et al., 2022), and play an important role in proprioception and nociception.
The big innervation of the fascia can help to assume that a myofascial massage or self-myofascial release can have effects on the autonomic nervous system, and help to improve blood circulation. In conclusion, these studies suggest that the fascia has a clear and distinct anatomical entity and a specific innervation, which should be considered to improve developing of different manual approach for treatments of fascial and myofascial dysfunctions (Fede et al., 2022, Langevin, 2021).