Myofascial Release – What Is It and How to Do It

Myofascial release is a great way to reduce tension in muscles and joints. This helps prevent injuries from happening and allows you to move with ease.

In this article, I'll explain exactly what myofascial release is, its benefits, its dangers, and how to do it yourself. I'll also share my top tips and more for using myofascial release effectively.

If you've never heard of myofascial release before, then you should definitely read this article. It will help you understand why it works and how to do it properly.

Woman Using a Foot Roller

What Is Myofascial Release?

The term “myofascial release” is a bit of an umbrella term for techniques that are used to help the body heal itself by releasing tension in the fascia, or connective tissue.

The fascia is the layer of connective tissue that surrounds muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, organs, and other structures within the body.

Tension in this tissue can cause pain and dysfunction throughout the body, as well as limiting our range of motion. By working directly on the fascia, we can reduce the tension and allow your body to function better.

How Does Myofascial Release Work?

When you perform myofascial release, you're actually pulling apart the tight layers of muscle and fascia to release the tension. The goal is to loosen up tight areas of the fascia so that they can relax and release their grip on surrounding tissues, and give back your range of motion. 

Myofascial release therapy should only be performed by trained professionals who can identify where the myofascial tissue problem areas are. These can include chiropractors, physical therapists, osteopathic physicians, massage therapists, sports medicine and injury specialists.

These are the most common areas where myofascial tissues can become tight and could use a release of tension: 

  • Head
  • Neck
  • Jaw
  • Shoulders
  • Arms
  • Lower back
  • Hips
  • Quads‌
  • Calves
  • Feet

What Are the Benefits of Myofascial Release?

Woman Holding a Foam Roller

There are many benefits to performing myofascial release:

  • Reduces Pain and Soreness - When you have tight fascia, there's often a lot of extra pressure being exerted on nearby tendons, ligaments, and muscles to compensate. This causes friction and inflammation, which leads to pain. By loosening these areas, you can reduce the amount of pain you experience.
  • Improves Mobility and Function - Tight fascia limits the mobility of your joints and makes them stiffer than normal, with your movements feeling more restricted and painful. Myofascial release therapy will release the tension and allow different parts of your body to move more easily with an improved range of motion.
  • Increases Flexibility - When you don't stretch regularly, your muscles and fascia begin to tighten up and lose flexibility. Therapy can keep your body flexible and release the tension in the muscles and fascia. 
  • Improve Posture - If you're experiencing pain or discomfort from poor posture, it may be because of tight fascia. By releasing the tension in your fascia, you can improve your alignment and help prevent future injuries.
  • Can Reduce Stress Levels - Regular myofascial release sessions can help reduce your stress levels, and you'll find yourself less tense and anxious throughout the day. Less anxiety and stress will help to improve your overall health.

What Are the Dangers of Myofascial Release?

Woman Using a Roller Foam On Her Back

Myofascial tissue tightness can be sore and painful, but the therapy will also be painful as the tissue tension is released. It's important to know how much pressure to use and the limits to prevent more tissue damage.

You should only seek therapy from trained professionals. If done incorrectly, this type of therapy can cause damage to the surrounding soft tissue, such as muscle tears, ligament sprains, tendonitis, or even nerve compression.

While myofascial release is safe for most people, some individuals may not want to perform this type of therapy due to potential risks. Talk to your doctor if you have certain health conditions or are taking medications, including: 

  • Metabolic conditions
  • Open wounds that haven't fully healed
  • Broken or weak bones
  • Deep vein conditions
  • Tumors
  • Taking blood thinner medications

Before trying myofascial release, it's best to speak with your doctor about any concerns you might have.

Does Myofascial Release Really Work?

There are not many large-scale scientific studies that look at the effects of myofascial release therapy, but there are a few small studies that show promising results.

One study suggests that myofascial release with a roller massager 3 times a week for 6 weeks showed improved spinal mobility and core stability endurance.

Another study on college-aged athletes showed that using foam rolling exercises had no direct effect on athletic performance, but showed significantly less fatigue and soreness. 

study with patients using foam rollers showed participants having increased joint range of motion without negative effects on muscle performance.  

What Are the Best Tools for Self Myofascial Release?

There are a number of tools available for self-myofascial release. What works best for you depends on what kind of issues you have and where on your body.

Foam Rollers

Woman Using a Foam Roller

The foam roller is one of the most popular tools used for self-myofascial release. They come in different sizes and shapes, so you can choose one that fits well for your tight areas. 

Foam rollers are best used for larger areas like your back, legs, thighs, quads, and calves. 

Rolling helps loosen up muscles by massaging and stretching them out using your own body weight. Put the foam roller underneath your problem areas and roll back and forth for 30-60 seconds. 

Roller Balls 

Roller balls are similar to foam rollers, except they're in the shape of balls. They work similarly to foam rollers by rolling back and both on them. 

Roller balls are best used to target smaller areas like your neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. 

Tennis balls can also serve the same purpose, but specially made roller balls are firmer and made of material that will help prevent balls from slipping while in use. 

Massage Balls

While roller balls are smooth, massage balls are spiky all around. The spikes can help give you a deeper tissue muscle massage. 

These are usually made of silicone and are designed to massage specific parts of the body. Choose one that feels good when placed over an area that needs extra attention. 

The Kanjo Acupressure Foot Pain Relief Ball is a great way to get relief. 

Stick Muscle Rollers

Stick muscle rollers are great for targeting smaller muscles like your shins, calves, thighs, and neck. 

While rollers thicker and use your body weight, stock rollers are thin and have handles that allow you to hold onto them. This makes it easier to control how much pressure you apply as you roll.

You can find stick muscle rollers in varying lengths and widths, as well as different types of spikes, spindles, and massaging parts.

Battery-Powered Percussion Devices

Percussion devices, also known as massage guns, have become very popular for self myofacial release. 

They are easy to use and can be used anywhere. You just need to point them at your problem area, turn it on, and let them do their job.

They work by creating vibrations to release tension and pain. These percussion massagers are usually lightweight and can operate at different speeds to allow you to go as deep or light depending on how sensitive the pain area is. 

Some percussion devices have detachable heads that make it possible to use them for different areas. 

Additional Treatments With Myofascial Release Therapy

Myofascial release therapy is usually complemented with other treatments to help control the pain and to keep muscles and joints loose. 

OTC Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage the pain and soreness after the therapy as your tissue tension gets released. Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help. 

Ice/Heat Therapy

Ice and heat therapy can help relieve pain and inflammation. Ice packs can be used to reduce swelling and inflammation. Heat pads can be used to increase blood flow and relax tense muscles. 

Stretching Exercises

Stretching exercises can help improve flexibility and range of motion. Stretches should always be performed slowly and gently after myofascial release therapy.

Myofascial Release FAQs

3 Foam Rollers

Which Body Region Should Be Avoided During Myofascial Release Techniques?

Any body regions with swelling, redness, open wounds, or recent acute pain should be avoided during myofascial release techniques. The inflammation levels in those areas will be very high as those areas are just starting recovery. Myofascial release therapy in those areas can make your condition worse. 

Which Proprioceptive Organ Is Targeted During Myofascial Release Techniques?

Myofascial release techniques target two main proprioceptive organs, the golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles. These two proprioceptive organs transmit information about the tension and length of tissues.

Is Myofascial Release Painful?

Some pain and soreness is to be expected after myofascial release treatment. This does not mean that the technique was ineffective. Your body's tight tissues are being worked on, and the body is flushing out the toxins from these areas. However, if the pain is sharp and / or worse than before treatment, then there may be a cause for concern. In this case, seek medical attention immediately. 

What Is the Difference Between Massage and Myofascial Release?

Massage is a general term used to describe any type of manual manipulation of soft tissues for stress and tension relief. Myofascial Release targets specific areas of tight connective tissue (the fascia) that cause muscle tightness and limit your range of motion.

Myofascial release stretches and lengthens the fascia through sustained pressure, while massages are a steady movement with kneading and stroking. 

Another difference is that massages usually last an hour long. Myofascial release can be performed in 15 minutes because the therapy is targeted to specific areas where the fascia are. 

What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Myofascial Pain?

Vitamin B12, vitamin D, folic acid and magnesium deficiencies are related to myofascial pain. Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiencies can result in a lack of healthy red blood cells that are able to carry oxygen to your muscles. Magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps and stiffness. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a loss of bone density. All of these vitamins and minerals play an important role in maintaining healthy nerves, muscles and bones. 

Does Caffeine Affect Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

Caffeine contains stimulants that can affect myofascial pain and lead to more muscle and tissue tension. But if you normally drink coffee and suddenly stop because you have myofascial pain, be careful of caffeine withdrawal, which can make your muscle pain worse. If you have caffeine withdrawal symptoms it can also lead to headaches, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, etc., it would be best to avoid caffeine until the effects pass. 



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