Myofascial Release Therapy

In this video Joanna Belsky, Physical Therapist at Progression Physical Therapy in Princeton New Jersey, describes and demonstrates Myofascial Release Therapy.

Almost 50% of the people I see are people with back pain and not all back pain is the same. Back pain can be caused by a number of issues, and we have multiple techniques that work to treat and improve your back pain.

There are different ways of handling back pain. You need exercise. You also can benefit from manual techniques, and by manual techniques I’m talking about things that a therapist can do with his or her hands to improve your tissue mobility. Tissue mobility can be mobility of your muscles and of the soft tissue. There’s also a type of soft tissue we all have. It’s called myofascial tissue. And if you can imagine Saran Wrap throughout your body, it covers your muscles, your nerves, even throughout your abdomen to keep everything where it’s supposed to be in your body. And it allows the structures in your body to slide and glide. When you contract a muscle, that muscle is shortening and lengthening and it has to be able to slide. If that is not happening, that can cause a lot of back pain.

Back pain can be muscular in nature where you have little to no mobility of that myofascial glide. It can also be caused by joints that aren’t moving as they ought to. The spine is made up of vertebrae and each vertebrae upon vertebrae there are joints. And those joints can get stiff and stuck. And they can get stiff and stuck, because your muscles have gotten tight and you stopped moving and then once you stop moving, you stop sliding that myofascial system. Everything begins to get bound down upon itself.

Stretching doesn’t always get at myofascial mobility. You can be one of those people that are home saying, “I have back pain. I’ve looked up exercises. I’m going to do my stretches. I’m going to feel better.” And you just can’t seem to get past your back pain. What helps is seeing a physical therapist that can work to improve that myofascial mobility and that joint mobility. And it doesn’t involve a lot of pain. It doesn’t have to be the chiropractic high velocity joint mobilizations, which a lot of people feel uncomfortable with. We do joint mobilizations, but you have your high velocity joint mobs, which are the one where your chiropractor takes you and turns you specifically and then gives a high energy pop. Physical therapists typically do lower grade joint mobilizations. Where it feels more like a lot of pressure to a little bit of pressure to hardly any pressure.

I love the techniques that are more like a joint unwinding. What it really does is I feel very specifically at each level of the spine and I’m able to with a just a bit of gentle pressure to press and see which way that spinal segment is able to move or not move. Then I can specifically with just a little bit of pressure and patience just get that joint to move into a range of motion that has restriction. And you’ll see that in a lot of people that I work with. They will be lying down and it looks so gentle and it really feels very gentle. People describe it as a release one we talk about it they’ll ask, “What is that?” And it’s just the most subtle bit of motion that improves your whole mobility. Sometimes it does take repeated efforts at that.

I do a lot of joint unwinding where it looks like my fingers are just sort of subtly moving, not a whole lot going on. It actually feels really relaxing. I do a lot of myofascial release, and it’s not really massage although it might look like massage. It is different in that I’m not getting in there and pushing hard and pushing on tender points that really hurt. It’s more of a prolonged, really gentle stretch. It looks like is my hands are just moving very slowly. Sometimes what I try and tell people is this is like if you had taffy and you wanted to pull it apart. If you just do it like a really fast pull, you don’t get very far with taffy. Taffy requires a sustained, prolonged, gentle pull. You get taffy to go further if you’re just applying a gentle steady force for a prolonged period of time, it just eases out and that’s sort of like what myofascial release is. It’s just a very gentle, light sustained pressure, and it eases that myofascial tissue that gets stuck in between muscles and around anatomical structures. ~ Joanna Belsky, Physical Therapist at Progression Physical Therapy in Princeton New Jersey