The thing is, myofascial release is not well defined, it is a broad term covering a wide variety of techniques.
This includes osteopathic techniques, rolfing, structural integration, massage therapy, cupping and IASTM. My interpretation of myofascial release may differ from others, but in this post I am referring to myofascial release as a manual technique that tensions soft tissue structures and is accompanied by active or passive movement, to promote relative tissue motion.
I have divided the response to myofascial release into three categories, in reality the response likely represents a response of multiple overlapping systems:
- Contextual Responses to Myofascial Release
- This is likely to play a role in any therapeutic intervention, the way we present ourselves and present our techniques has influence on the treatment. The magnitude of a response may be influenced by mood, expectation, and conditioning.
- Neurological Responses to Myofascial Release
- Fascia is highly innervated by mechanoreceptors, this was document by Robert Schleip in 2003. His article Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation Part 1– Part 2, this is an interesting and very readable two-part article laying out a possible neurological explanation for the beneficial effects of myofascial release.
- The literature of Robert Schleip, Carla Stecco, Antonio Stecco and Thomas Findley support the idea that along with the neurological response and contextual response massage therapy has a mechanical effect on the fascial system. A summary of the proposed mechanisms includes but is not limited to
- Mechanical Responses to Myofascial Release
Any type of massage therapy is actively engaging the nervous system by stimulating mechanoreceptors at the level of the skin, as well as at deeper level fascial layers. Deep slow myofascial release techniques stimulate sensory ending known as the ruffini endings. Stimulating these slow adapting sensory receptors has the ability to alter the motor output and the experience of pain.
“Fascia and the autonomic nervous system appear to be intimately connected. A change in attitude in myofascial practitioners from a mechanical perspective toward an inclusion of the self-regulatory dynamics of the nervous system is suggested.”
-Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation: Robert Schleip