The term “Myofascial” was first used in the 1940s to describe musculoskeletal pain syndromes and trigger points. Afterwards, Myofascial release was used to describe different therapy techniques revolving around soft tissue massage and therapy.
“Myo” means muscle, and “Fascia” refers to the connective tissues surrounding our muscles. The Fascia can be considered the largest system in our body as it is the system that touches every other system in our body.
The Fascia is a strong connective tissue which surrounds our muscles and provides structural support. You can think of it like a sort of skin that stretches across your muscles and holds them in place. If you’ve skinned chicken breasts before, the thin, white sheets of tissue between the skin and the muscles are the Fascia.
Leonardo Da vinci was one of the first to dissect the human body and study the fascia. However, it is not until recently that scientists have started studying the effects fascia have on physical movement and performance.
The fascia covers every single part of our body. Every one of our muscles are encased in this fluid compartment. Fascia supports our muscles as well as provides a layer of protection for our muscles. Muscles which are used repeatedly at high impact will tend to have thicker fascia as they adapt to the heavier usage of the muscles to protect them from injury.
“Fascia is the missing element in the movement/stability equation,” – Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains.
Fascia in its healthy state is very flexible and fluid, allowing us to move in our full ROM (Range of Motion). It is an amazing structure which has incredible self-healing properties, and is strong enough to withstand up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch. However, if we do not take good care of our fascia, it will start causing us pain.
A sedentary lifestyle will cause the supple fibres to become stiff and inflexible. Repeated overuse of certain muscle groups will cause the fascia covering them to thicken in order to protect them from damage. Bad posture, tense muscles and poor flexibility can also coax these highly adaptable fibres into ingrained patterns. The fibres in the fascia start to bundle and stick together and our fascia loses its fluidity. Over time, the adhesive forces in the bundles of fibres start to get stronger and begin limiting our ROM, sometimes even causing us pain.
Muscle knots and Myofascial pain
A “muscle knot” is used to describe a variety of painful issues affecting the fascia, such as areas of muscle that are painful with pressure or a highly irritable localized spot. It is also known as deep tissue pain, or a trigger point. A myofascial trigger point is a small patch of tightly contracted muscle tissue in an isolated spasm. Trigger points are knotty, involuntary contractions of muscle bundles. When this patch of muscle tissue spasms the knotted muscle cuts off its own blood supply, which irritates it even more — a vicious cycle.
While it is not known completely how trigger points or muscle knots form, these pain points are formed when the fascia and muscles interact poorly with each other, causing pain in the deep tissue.
An Illustration of a Myofascial muscle knot at the Trapezius.
The Plantar Fasciitis is a common cause of foot pain. It is a result of the Plantar Fascia becoming inflammed and thick bands of muscle knots forming along the arch of the foot.
After knowing all about muscle knots and the fascia, it’s time to know more about how to cure relieve our body of unnatural tension and pain. Traditionally, athletes would go to sport masseurs to receive treatment for myofascial release, and these masseurs would use their hands to rub out the knots and kinks under the skin. To do this, the masseurs or therapists would apply a low pressure to the areas of pain, and drag their hands and fingers across the layers of soft-tissue in the body. After this motion is carried out for some time, our body will “release” the tissue and mobility between those sliding surfaces is restored.
Self-Myofascial Release with the Foam Roller
While it is always going to be more effective to visit a myofascial release expert to help you out with your myofascial trigger points, it is extremely inconvenient and costly for us. The foam roller helps us to achieve a similar level of release in our homes, and we are able to do it regularly.
Besides helping us with myofascial release and making us feel good, using a foam roller has many more benefits.
- Increased Blood Flow and circulation
- Alleviating DOMS (Delayed onset muscle soreness)
- Increasing ROM (Range of Motion) and Flexibility
- Decreasing recovery time between our workouts
- Prevents muscle cramps