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  • Dr. Mark Freund

An Introduction to Myofascial Release

Updated: Jul 6, 2022

myofascial release therapy

Does your body always feel tight or sore? Are your neck, shoulders, back, and even your head screaming for relief? Chiropractors, massage and physical therapists use a variety of techniques to help your body return to its optimum level of health and function. If you’ve been looking for ways to ease the pain, the myofascial release might be the answer. In this article, we'll cover what it is, the benefits, and how it works.

What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy often used to treat myofascial pain syndrome. It's a type of chronic pain disorder caused by sensitivity and tightness in your myofascial tissues. These tissues surround and support the muscles throughout your body. The pain usually originates from specific points within your myofascial tissues called "trigger points."

Myofascial release focuses on reducing pain by easing the tension and tightness in the trigger points. It's not always easy to understand what trigger point is responsible for the pain. Localizing pain to a specific trigger point is very difficult. For that reason, myofascial release is often used over a broad area of muscle and tissue rather than at single points.


Fascia is a system of connective tissue that encases our body parts and binds them together. Fascia, made primarily of collagen, can be thought of as a sausage casing for your body's tissues. It surrounds muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments and gives them shape. Fascia also connects your skin to the tissue that is directly beneath it.

The collagen that makes up fascia is organized in a wavy pattern. When pulled, these lines of tissue resist tensile and shear loads, helping to keep your body parts together. When you injure a body part, healthcare professionals tend to focus solely on that part; an injury to your Achilles tendon usually results in your physician or physical therapist focusing on the tendon. Some of that focus should be on the fascia, as it is woven into all of our body's systems, holding them together, giving them shape, and allowing pain-free functional movement to occur.

In general, there are two types of fascia:

  • Superficial fascia

  • Deep fascia

fascia tissue in the muscles

The superficial fascia is used to describe the connective that separates the skin from the underlying muscle tissue.

The deep fascia is a dense, organized, connective tissue located deep in the skin and subcutaneous tissue. It surrounds muscles, viscera, and related structures. Depending on its location, there are several types of deep fascia. These include:

  • Fasciae of muscles

  • Fasciae of body cavities

The main function of the fasciae is to protect and support deep structures and organs of the body. In addition, fasciae reduce friction between muscles, transmit movement from muscle to bones, and sometimes serve as the attachment point for skeletal muscles.

Myofascial Release Methods and Techniques

Myofascial release can help with pain due to what is commonly referred to as 'trigger points,' which can be described as small, hyperirritable areas within a muscle.

Direct vs. Indirect Myofascial Release myofascial

Now let's go through the different kinds of myofascial release massage therapy, which could be a panacea for your chronic pain. As we have gone aware, it's a hands-on technique for dealing with myofascial pain syndrome. However, there are two differences which are usually used by physiotherapy specialists. Here are the primary differences between direct vs. indirect myofascial release types of myofascial release techniques:

  • The direct release, where the physiotherapists use force or weight for releasing the fascia. It's a kind of deep tissue myofascial release therapy in order to gain & restore mobility and reduce muscle pain.

  • The indirect release is generally based on the approach of applying gentle pressure and allowing the fascia to unwind itself. Meanwhile, its objective is also to achieve greater movement.

Types of Myofascial Release Exercises

Let's have a quick look at the Myofascial release exercises adopted by physiotherapists and chiropractors across the globe while applying myofascial release techniques. There are several different types of direct and indirect myofascial release techniques, including – myofascial foam rolling, foam rolling calf, foam rolling IT band, foam rolling adductor, foam rolling hamstrings, foam rolling glutes, and many more. Here we are going to discuss a few ones for a small understanding of you.

The exercises you do for myofascial release depend on where the pain is occurring, of course. Following are some of the common self-myofascial release exercises that have helped people find pain relief.

1. Use a myofascial release foam roller.

The roller can relieve help to relieve pain in the upper back and shoulders, thoracic spine area, thighs, quads, calves, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, and any other places in which you can place the roller and roll back and forth while either face-up, face down or sitting.

myofascial release exercises with a foam roller

2. Use a myofascial release tennis ball.

Using a tennis ball for myofascial exercises is particularly good for targeting smaller muscle areas, like the feet. For example, plantar fascia (bottom of the foot) is very painful. Sit in a chair, and roll the tennis ball back and forth under the arch of the foot to stretch the muscle.

You can use the tennis ball for other areas of the body too. The tennis ball back roller is used by standing against a wall with the tennis ball placed where the back muscles are tense. Roll the ball around the painful muscle.

The tennis ball can also be used for myofascial exercises in the calves, glutes, hip flexors, pectoral muscles, triceps, and other areas where there is muscle tenderness.

3. Perform self-myofascial massage

You can massage the area of a tender muscle as long as you can reach it with your fingers. Gently press on and then rub trigger points to ease the knots, or rub an area where muscles feel tight. You can do a massage with your fingers alone or use a tennis ball.

4. Do stretching exercises

Stretching the muscles by using some gentle moves can be helpful. Myofascial stretches include traditional poses like the standing quad stretch, standing hamstring stretch, seated shoulder squeeze, and many others. It is easy to find stretching exercises online that target every muscle in the body.

An important point to be aware of is that some myofascial pain is referred pain. The pain in one area is caused by a condition somewhere else in the body. For example, arm pain may be caused by trigger points in the neck, or leg muscle pain is due to a back muscle issue. If you focus on a muscle area and pain is not relieved, then try other areas to see if you can pinpoint the real source of pain.

Temporomandibular Joint Myofascial Release Technique

Our jaws are held together by extremely strong tendons, ligaments, and muscles. When they are tense, they can feel like painful steel cables inside our jaw and can even pull our jaw out of alignment. This results in a condition called TMD (Temporalmandibular Disorder), commonly referred to as TMJ.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders are conditions affecting the jaw joints and surrounding muscles and ligaments. It can be caused by trauma, an improper bite, arthritis, or wear and tear. Common symptoms include jaw tenderness, headaches, earaches, and facial pain.

temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms

Treatments range from simple self-care practices and conservative treatments to injections and open surgery. Most experts agree that treatment should begin with conservative and nonsurgical therapies like myofascial release.

Myofascial release is used to massage the muscles around the jaw in many patients with temporomandibular joint disorder. This reduces pain and inflammation while also increasing jaw mobility.

Types of Self-Myofascial Release

Self Myofascial Release is a self-massage technique where you use a foam roller to apply pressure on a muscular sore spot to release tension and improve muscle performance.

Here are the types of self-myofascial release that can be used to provide some relief throughout the day. Of course, consult your chiropractor and physical therapist to ensure you're performing these techniques correctly and so that they can provide the optimal myofascial release exercises that would most benefit your situation.

Upper Back

Cross your arms across your chest or put your hands behind your head – as if you were going to do an abdominal crunch. Then lie your back against the foam roller. Carefully lift the hips and with gentle pressure, roll up and down the mid-section of your back. Roll gently over this area for 1-2 minutes before swapping to the other side. If you roll over a tender spot, hold and sustain gentle pressure for 30-45 seconds.

Adductor (Inner Thigh)

Lie face-down on the floor with your legs outstretched.

Extend one of your legs out to the side slightly, and place your foam roller in the groin. Roll gently over this area for 1-2 minutes before swapping to the other side. If you roll over a tender spot, hold and sustain gentle pressure for 30-45 seconds.

Iliotibial Band

This one is a little trickier to get right. Your Iliotibial band is a thick strip of connective tissue that runs from your hip to your shin bone via the knee. It can be the source of a multitude of pain and mobility problems. If your iliotibial band is tight, it can be aggravated as it rubs against the thigh bone.

Lie on your side with the foam roller positioned underneath you – just below the hip.

Keep your head and the rest of your body straight, and roll gently from just below your hip bone to the outer edge of the knee. Roll gently over this area for 1-2 minutes before swapping to the other side. If you roll over a tender spot, hold and sustain gentle pressure for 30-45 seconds.


Sit on the floor with your legs outstretched. Place the foam roller underneath your thighs, then raise your hips off the floor – using your hands on the floor behind you for support. Roll back and forwards gently, so the roller moves from your knee up to the outer edge of your hip. Roll gently over this area for 1-2 minutes before swapping to the other side. If you roll over a tender spot, hold and sustain gentle pressure for 30-45 seconds.

self myofascial release exercises assisted by a physical therapist


Lie face down on the floor and put the foam roller underneath the front of your thighs. Keep your glutes and core engaged to prevent lower back injury. When you're in position, gently roll from your knee to your pelvis – focusing on the outer edge of your thigh. Roll gently over this area for 1-2 minutes before swapping to the other side. If you roll over a tender spot, hold and sustain gentle pressure for 30-45 seconds.

Who Can Benefit from MFR?

People who are already receiving chiropractic care and physical therapy

Myofascial Release is a great complement to other treatment regimens. For example, in the case of chiropractic treatment, the addition of MFR can ensure that the chiropractic adjustments "stick" and don't recur as soon as you leave your chiropractor. MFR can also help provide a better adjustment by your chiropractor. In the case of nutritional supplements or medicines, MFR can ensure that they effectively reach their intended target area and affect their full benefit. After all, if a particular gland or organ is not functioning properly due to a fascial restriction that is depriving it of vital nourishment, no amount of medicine or supplement will change that if it's subject to the same internal pathways of delivery that are affected by the restriction.

People who suffer from repetitive motion injuries

Myofascial release is also effective for Repetitive Motion Injuries. In such cases, MFR can create space around affected ligaments to relieve inflammation naturally without medication or surgery. Whether it's Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow, or any number of shoulder and knee conditions, MFR can naturally and gently relieve the tension in the connective tissues surrounding the joints that, when tight, irritate and impede the natural movement of ligaments and cause inflammation.

muscle pain

People with poor posture

Today's sedentary lifestyle of office jobs and driving, of using computers and smartphones for extended periods of time every day, has created the tendency for Head-Forward and Shoulder-Forward postures that can manifest independently or concurrently. Head-Forward posture alone can significantly decrease vital (lung) respiratory capacity. Combined, they exert a heavy toll on our lungs' ability to function optimally. Additionally, these postures are often associated with chronic pain at the base of the neck and mid-back. MFR can release the restrictions responsible for maintaining these postures, thereby allowing your head and shoulders to return to their intended positions, alleviating the cause of the chronic pain, and restoring lung capacity.

People with a herniated or bulged disc

Myofascial Release can decompress the spine. This takes the pressure off the disc, relieves associated pain, and creates space for the disc to heal naturally. This can eliminate the need for back surgery to repair a disc and avoids hours of discomfort sitting or standing in a mechanical traction device.

People with a TMJ disorder

Myofascial Release can release tension from distant or surrounding tissues that impede the function of the TMJ. This release can return the TMJ to its proper range of motion and eliminate lateral deviation, clicking, and pain.

People who suffer from sciatic pain

Myofascial Release can take pressure off of the Sciatic nerve. Whether it's caused by compression of the lumbar spine or impingement by the Piriformis muscle, MFR can create the space necessary for the surrounding joints and muscles to function without impacting the Sciatic nerve and causing pain.

People who have suffered from injuries

Myofascial Release can resolve both the direct and indirect results of injuries. Often, damage occurs not only at the sight of a primary impact but also in subsequent impacts that occur afterward. After an injury, your body adopts a protective posture designed to protect the injured area. While this posture is initially a conscious thing, after about three days, it becomes ingrained into our subconscious and permanently reinforced by our fascia. This subconscious holding pattern remains long after an injury heals and perpetuates a state of imbalance in the body.

benefits of myofascial release therapy

Long-term imbalance in the body can lead to additional pain and injury. For example, following a sprained ankle, your hips can become imbalanced. This imbalance in the hips is compensated for by a lateral curvature of the spine (scoliosis), is reflected in the shoulders, and finally results in a lateral compression of a disc between two vertebrae in your neck and misalignment between the skull and first cervical vertebra. Consequently, you end up with chronic headaches and pain in the neck and shoulders--all because of the sprained ankle. The MFR approach can decode these patterns and restore your body to balance and motion--leaving you feeling lighter, more stable, and pain-free.

Seeking Treatment

Myofascial release is one of the most common forms of manual therapy that Natural Care Chiropractic has to offer. If you have a muscle knot on your back, neck, shoulder, or other areas of the body, this can be an effective solution to eliminating muscle pain. Contact us today to schedule an appointment, so we can assess how you can benefit from this form of physical therapy.


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