I refer to it as myofascial release. You may also hear it called trigger point therapy, soft tissue work or a number of other things. They all fall into a similar category and aim to accomplish the same thing.
Myofascial release has been a game changer for me. It’s been one of the most important things I’ve incorporated into my fitness routine over the last decade. I believe it’s the missing piece for alot of people out there.
With this article, I want to give you a basic understanding of these concepts. I’m going avoid technical jargon and just try to get basic message across. If there is anything missing or you have questions, please hit me up on twitter.
What Is Myofascial Release
I like to define it in a very simple fashion.
Myofascial release is the process of releasing trigger points in the body. A trigger point is knotted up muscle.
This is not an all encompassing definition. I prefer it because it eases the understanding of the concept. For those who prefer something more technical, wikipedia says the following.
The myofascial release approach is a form of soft tissue therapy used to treat somatic dysfunction and resulting pain and restriction of motion. It is a treatment described by Andrew Taylor Still, founder of osteopathy/osteopathic medicine, and his early students, which uses continual palpatory feedback to achieve release of myofascial tissues. This is supposedly accomplished by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation and lymphatic drainage, and stimulating the stretch reflex of muscles and overlying fascia.
More On Trigger Points
Trigger points arise when a muscle is overworked or injured. Poor posture, bad movement or general wear and tear contribute heavily to there formation. These knots can inhibit movement and cause pain.
There are two types of trigger points, active and latent. An active trigger point will cause pain while you are at rest. Meaning an active trigger point in the neck would cause neck pain.
A latent trigger point does not cause pain at rest. However, it can cause muscle restriction and weakness. That means it could be causing problems unknown to you, because there is no actual pain to warn of the issue.
You can find a latent trigger point by touch though. When you press the location, it will feel uncomfortable.
How Myofascial Release Works
Sticking to simple. Firm pressure applied to trigger points will help release the tension and break up the trigger point.
A more technical description from Wikipedia….
The direct myofascial release (or deep tissue work) method works through engaging the myofascial tissue restrictive barrier, the tissue is loaded with a constant force until tissue release occurs.
Pressure is applied with the “grain” of the muscle fibers. Release may not always occur instantly. A trigger point may have to be worked out over several sessions.
There are two methods of releasing trigger points.
- Self Myofascial Release – This involves using your own hands or different tools to apply pressure to yourself. It works well and is the cost effective option.
- Professional Hands-On Work – This involves getting a specialist to use there hands or tools to help release trigger points. There are many different treatments in this area. Examples include Active Release Technique, Rolfing, Deep Tissue Massage, Graston, etc.
Why Myofascial Release Is Important
Releasing trigger points is necessary before stretching and strengthening can be productive. To help explainI borrowed the following analogy from Tony Gentilcore.
Think of your muscle fiber as a rubberband. If you were to tie a knot in the rubberband and then attempt to stretch it, the knot would only get tighter. The same applies to trigger points. If you stretch a muscle fiber when it’s loaded with trigger points, they will get tighter.
This is no good! If you don’t take the time to work out the knots, they will only get worse. This will prevent you from progressing towards your ideal range of motion. Not having correct range of motion makes it difficult to build strength properly.
- Trigger points are knots in muscles
- Trigger points can cause pain and restriction
- Myofascial release uses applied pressure to release the trigger points
- Releasing trigger points is necessary to stretch and strengthen properly