Dr. Mark LaBeau - Myofascial Therapy in Carmel Valley
Myofascial Therapy for the Treatment of Acute and Chronic Pain
Myofascial therapy relieves soft tissue restrictions that cause pain. Some causes of chronic myofascial pain or low back pain are easier to diagnose than others: trauma (such as a car accident or fall), cumulative posture misalignment or mechanical deficiencies, a compressed nerve from a herniated disc, or inflammatory conditions.
When pain is caused by myofascial tightness within the fascial system (the web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body and surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve blood vessel, and organ to the cellular level) the diagnosis is more difficult, as fascia restrictions do not show up on MRI scans or X-rays. Yet, those restrictions can play a major role in creating pain and malfunction in the structure of the spine, extremities and organs.
What is Myofascial Therapy?
Myofascial Therapy (also known as myofascial release therapy or myofascial trigger point therapy) is a type of safe, low load stretch that releases tightness and pain throughout the body caused by myofascial pain syndrome, which describes chronic muscle pain that is worse in specific areas known as trigger points.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is a three-dimensional web that permeates the whole body. The best way to visualize the expanse of the fascial system is to imagine it as a layer of connective tissue (similar to a tendon or ligament) that starts with the top layer right below the skin, and extends to two deeper layers.
When the fascia is in its normal healthy state it is a relaxed and flexible web - like the weave in a loose-knit sweater. When it is restricted, it is more rigid and less pliable, and can create pulls, tensions, and pressure as great as 2,000 pounds per square inch. The fascia is a continuous system, running from the bottom of the feet through the top of the head and has three layers:
- Superficial fascia, which is located right below the skin. It stores fat and water, allows nerves to run through it, and allows muscle to move the skin.
- Deep fascia, which surrounds and infuses with muscle, bone, nerves, and blood vessels to the cellular level.
- Deepest fascia, which sits within the dura of cranial sacral system.
Fascia restrictions can occur within any or all of the layers.
Myofascial release (MFR) therapy concentrates on releasing muscular shortness and tightness. There are a number of conditions and symptoms that myofascial release therapy addresses.
Many patients seek myofascial treatment after losing flexibility or function following an injury or if experiencing recurring back, shoulder, hip, or virtually pain in any area containing soft tissue.
Other conditions treated by myofascial release therapy include Temporo-Mandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, carpal tunnel syndrome, or possibly fibromyalgia or migraine headaches. Patient symptoms generally include:
- Tightness of the tissues that restricts motion or pulls the body out of alignment, causing individuals to favor and overuse one hip or shoulder, as an example
- A sense of excessive pressure on muscles or joints that produces pain
- Pain in any part or parts of the body, including headache or back pain.
Sources of Myofascial Pain
Myofascial pain can have two causes. Pain can be generated from the skeletal muscle or connective tissues that are 'bound down' by tight fascia. In addition, pain can also be generated from damaged myofascial tissue itself, sometimes at a 'trigger point' where a contraction of muscle fibers has occurred. In either situation, the restriction or contraction inhibits blood circulation to the affected structures, thus accentuating the contraction process further unless the area is treated.
The objective of myofascial therapy is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it and other contiguous structures can move more freely, and the patient's motion is restored. Because of this, myofascial therapy is sometimes referred to as 'myofascial release' therapy. It may also be referred to as 'myofascial trigger point therapy' by others.
Who Provides Myofascial Release Therapy?
Several types of health professionals can provide myofascial release therapy, including properly trained osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, physical or occupational therapists, massage therapists, or sports medicine/injury specialists. Distinct training and courses in Myofascial Release Therapy are generally necessary and can be extensive to attain a high level of competency.
Therapy sessions follow a pattern similar to physical therapy for post-operative rehabilitation. An initial appointment will be dedicated to locating the areas of the fascia that appear to be restricted, and measuring the level of loss of motion or loss of symmetry in the body. Future treatment sessions might:
Last a minimum of 30 but optimally 50 minutes or more per session
- Be conducted daily or every few days
- Take place at outpatient clinic or health center
- Have a qualified therapist give hands-on treatment in a relaxing, private therapy room
- Occur over a few weeks or months, depending on the nature and intensity of disability
The specific releases to different parts of the body vary, but generally include gentle application of pressure or sustained low load stretch to the affected area. Progress is gauged by the level of increased motion or function experienced, and/or reduction in pain felt by the patient.
Myofascial Therapy in Carmel Valley
Myofascial therapy can be a precursor and complement to other treatments. Individuals that engage in myofascial therapy also might benefit from other forms of nonsurgical treatment that aim to control pain and keep muscles and joints warm and loose. These consist of:
- Using non-prescription pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- Applying heat to relieve constricted muscles or using ice to relax swollen areas
- Performing self-stretching exercises to preserve flexibility and increase range of motion or aerobic exercise to increase blood flow to the affected areas
Myofascial therapy can also enhance or assist other treatments to boost their efficiency such as acupuncture, manipulation, physical therapy, or occupational therapy. Myofascial release therapy can also improve skeletal and muscular alignment before a surgery, or help athletes achieve better alignment prior to sports competitions.
By targeting certain areas of the fascial system, myofascial therapy can help prepare individuals for more vigorous kinds of strengthening, or offer pain relief for individuals with restricted flexibility and movement, thus allowing individuals to return to normal movement and better function.