myofascial release: a holistic bodywork approach to chronic pain relief

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Holistic Pain Relief, Wellness | 8 comments

Myofascial ReleaseAbout 10 years ago I received my first myofascial release bodywork treatment. Since then, I’ve spent over 140 hours in training to be a myofascial release therapist, and many hundreds more treating my clients. I’ve also benefited greatly from the holistic approach of the myofascial release bodywork I’ve received. I have found it to be an incredibly effective method of treating chronic pain because it not only relieves existing pain, but also offers an avenue to start resolving long-term causes and dysfunctions.

Ginevra Liptan, M.D. quotes a patient in her wonderful book Figuring out Fibromyalgia, “Myofascial release works better than any pill to relieve my pain.”

The type of myofascial release I practice, and what Dr. Liptan references in her book is taught by John F. Barnes, P.T. While there are many therapists offering myofascial work, my experience is that the Barnes approach is far superior work for most people. It’s worth searching out someone trained in this particular approach.

Myofascial release (MFR) uses gentle, hands-on pressure to engage the fascial system and restore health and balance throughout your body. This inherently safe process facilitates your body’s natural ability to “unwind,” release subconscious holding patterns, and thus reintegrate the body, nervous system, and mind. The result is significant change that is measurable and functional.

Fascia is a type of tissue that creates a three-dimensional, whole-body system. It supports and protects every system, muscle, nerve, bone, joint, blood vessel, organ, and cell in the body. Imagine it as a completely connected spider web that reaches from head to toe in each of us!

This web is made up of both fibers and a fluid ground substance. Myofascial restrictions are created when the fluid aspect of the fascia loses its gel-like properties as a result of physical injury, inflammation, surgery, mental stress, emotional trauma, poor posture, and/or repetitive strain. Restrictions can create pressure up to 2000 lbs. per square inch—imagine two horses standing on one square inch of your body!

Your body tries to accommodate these restrictions by adjusting posture, motion, and flexibility. Over time this causes pain, weakness, inflammation, or malfunction throughout the body, sometimes with symptoms that seem unrelated. Myofascial release is a profound and long-term solution.

A variety of therapists can be trained in myofascial release—physical therapists, massage therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. When you arrive for your first myofascial release appointment, you can expect the therapist to evaluate your posture and discuss any treatment needs. Therapists may work throughout your body, or in one specific area depending on your needs.

Myofascial release treatment using the John Barnes approach will include long, slow, sustained holds. The myofascial restriction is lightly stretched or lengthened, and this position is maintained for at least two minutes but often longer. This process is then repeated throughout the body based on the therapist’s assessment and the client’s experience. Treatment is non-injurious, and helps heal mind, body and spirit.

Also find this video on You Tube for a visual exploration of fascia:


Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

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7 tips for a better massage when you live with chronic pain

Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Ask the Coach, Healthier Choices, Wellness | 0 comments

When you live with chronic pain, lots of friends probably suggest getting massage or bodywork to feel better. And maybe you’ve even had more than a few massages over the last several years. But sometimes massage isn’t a pleasant experience—it might hurt during the massage, or you might be very sore for a few days after the massage.

These are all things I have experienced too, and since then I’ve come up with some ways to make massage work more effectively for myself and other people who live with chronic pain. And as a massage therapist myself, I definitely take these ideas into account when I see clients who live with chronic pain!

  1. Less is more. Less pressure is better when you get on the table with chronic pain. (This will be different than someone needing help with short-term, situational pain.) Find a massage therapist who is comfortable working gently, and who doesn’t need to fix all the aches and pains in the first sixty minutes. Know that you do not need a deep tissue massage to relax, and be comfortable asking for a relaxation or “Swedish” massage. It will help as much or more than deep pressure!
  2. It is especially helpful to find a therapist who specializes in massage for chronic pain, as they will be most understanding of your challenges. Use this search as a starting point (although you may want to narrow it down to your local area):

    Getting the massage you need for pain relief!

    Getting the massage you need for pain relief!

  3. When you’re looking for a new long-term therapist, ask them what percentage of their clients have chronic pain. It’s just so different to give a massage designed to alleviate chronic vs. acute pain. When you find a therapist whose patients with chronic pain comprise at least 50% of their practice, you’re on the right track.
  4. You might even ask around to see if you can find a massage therapist who also lives with chronic pain. This won’t be listed in a directory, but sometimes friends and family will have a lead on a therapist. When the person giving the massage has experienced their own chronic pain, they typically have a whole different understanding of your concerns.
  5. Be willing to try different types of massage than what you’ve always tried. For example, one of the types I practice is called myofascial release—be sure find someone who uses the “John Barnes approach,” which is generally a more gentle version of the work. Physical and occupational therapists also get trained in this bodywork, so sometimes you can get it covered by insurance if your doc will write a prescription.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for special accommodations during your massage. For example, I have a few clients who struggle to turn from their belly to their back. So they start on their back because it’s easier to turn from back to belly. Or if heat on the table makes you feel looser, be sure to request it. On the other hand, some of us get more uncomfortable with too much heat, so be sure to request a cool table. No detail is too small if it means you get the help you need.
  7. Choose a massage therapist whose office is relatively close to home. Sounds silly, but after you get relaxed you don’t want a long, long drive that might make you feel tense again.

The bottom line is that a great massage starts with great communication. This is even more important when you live with chronic pain. Be sure your therapist is open to requests, and remember that you are the most important person in that treatment room. Your therapist really does want you to be clear about what you need, so never be worried about asking.

Here’s to good health, great relaxation, and minimizing pain!



Do you just wish you could find a set of realistic, holistic tools you can put in practice that will minimize your pain and maximize your energy? Download my free PDF report to learn 17 EASY WAYS TO START MINIMIZING PAIN TODAY!

Read More
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