Myofascial Therapy: The Chronic Pain Cure-all

Over the past few years, I have written several blogs specifically about the types of modalities that I use in my massage practice in Salt Lake City, Utah. I am actually surprised that I never wrote one about Myofascial Therapy, as it is a staple in most of my treatments.  Last month’s blog, I chose Fascia as my subject and wanted to follow up with a blog specifically about Myofascial Therapy because it is a treatment that particularly works with the Fascia. And the reason that I have converted to using Myofascial treatments in almost every massage session, is because it is powerful. Not only can it affect muscle tissue, ligaments and tendons; but can also directly improve the structural integrity of your body.

From last month’s blog, you will remember that Fascia is a web-like structure of connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the human body, including muscle. In the illustration to the left, the fascia is the white parts surrounding the muscles. Fascia acts to compartmentalize each muscle individually as well as each group of muscles. It also surrounds blood vessels and nerves. You could say it works as a binding agent to keep everything in it’s place. So Myofascial Therapy, also commonly called Myofascial Release, affects Fascia directly.  The primary goal of this therapy is to eliminate chronic muscle pain, and loosen tight Fascia that is restricting muscles, and therefore restricting movement of neighboring structures, like joints and bones. Once the Fascia is released, the entire body can move freely. I guess that is why it is called Myofascial RELEASE.

Now that you understand the important role that Fascia plays in the body, and that it affects each muscle directly, I would like to describe the 3 types of muscles that we carry in our structures. These 3 categories include Cardiac Muscle, Smooth Muscle and Skeletal Muscle.

Cardiac Muscle – Cardiac muscle (heart muscle) is involuntary striated muscle, located in the walls of the heart; striated, meaning the cell fibers are aligned in parallel bundles, so that their different regions form stripes. Of course, these stripes would only be visible under a microscope. Cardiac muscle cells, like all tissues in the body, rely on an ample blood supply to deliver oxygen and nutrients and to remove waste products such as Carbon Dioxide. In the up-close picture below, you will see what cardiac muscle tissue looks like and also that it is striated. The striated tissue has visible stripes.

Smooth Muscle – This is involuntary non-striated muscle tissue. Smooth muscle is primarily located within the walls of blood vessels, small arteries, arterioles and veins. It is also found in lymphatic vessels, the bladder, the male and female reproductive tract, gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract. You can even find this muscle in the iris of the eye.  Smooth muscle does not contain striation, or stripes. And the cells are more of a spindle shape.

Skeletal Muscle – Skeletal muscle is responsible for our bodies’ mechanical system, which moves the limbs and other parts of the body. Like Cardiac muscle, Skeletal muscle is striated; however, unlike the other two types, this muscle is voluntary. All Skeletel muscle is connected to bone. These are the muscles we can see and feel through our skin.  Also, this muscle tissue is what is directly affected from Myofascial Therapy. Once the Fascia is manipulated through Myofascial work, the muscles are loosened, freeing the body of any restrictions. The pain inflicted by immobility in the muscles can be very painful, and over time, can become extremely unbearable and chronic.  Illustrated below is skeletal muscle, lying just beneath our skin.

So how do you know if you are suffering from Myofascial pain? I would like to go over the symptoms commonly felt with Myofascial pain and explain what can potentially cause it. Symptoms include:

  • Chronic back/neck pain
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Strange sensations such as numbness, pins and needles, burning, or a deep ache
  • Sciatica
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Reduced Flexibility

These are just a few of the debilitating outcomes of Myofascial tension. It is important to treat these issues before they worsen. As they become more chronic and more painful, the more the structural integrity of your skeletal system is compromised. You must consider the body to be like a machine. Many different components make our bodies operate as one functional unit. When there are a few components working improperly, it can throw off the entire machine. Leaving myofascial conditions untreated, your posture will become weakened. And like a chain reaction, the symptoms and imbalances will continue to worsen.

You must be wondering what causes these imbalances and Myofascial pain to begin with. There are countless. The world we live in today is physically and emotionally demanding. Here are some common causes of chronic pain:

  • Poor posture
  • Repetitive motions, such as painting or working on a computer
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time
  • Emotional stress
  • Lack of stretching
  • Inflammation
  • Injuries

These causes are very broad, but basically anyone can start to feel Myofascial pain simply from the everyday demands of life. There are a few specific syndromes related to Myofascial pain like Myofascial Pain Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Both of these disorders can be diagnosed by your doctor and are associated with specific Myofascial trigger points. These points are basically knots in the muscle tissue that are palpable and painful. These conditions can affect people’s lives in terrible ways. During a flare-up, there will be increased inflammation and pain, sometimes preventing someone from even getting out of bed.

If any of the above symptoms affect you, or you or someone you know is suffering from any type of pain syndrome, please call today to schedule a Myofascial treatment session. In my experience as a massage therapist, in Salt Lake City, Utah, this is one of the greatest forms of pain management that is out there. If you are suffering from pain, don’t hesitate to call me at 801-349-3934 to schedule an appointment. I will also give you tips and stretches, for improving pain outside of the therapy sessions. Don’t get used to chronic pain. Let me help you improve your quality of life!

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