Complementary Health Therapist
Sport & Remedial Massage, Integrated Myofascial Therapy
Reiki, Emotional Realignment Therapy, The Honey Healing Method
What is myofascial release?
“Myofascial Release (MFR) is a form of bodywork that aims to influence the connective tissue (myofascia) that surrounds and shapes the muscles, bones, organs, and nerves.”
Can you talk a bit more about the body’s connective tissue?
“The myofascial network is a three dimensional network that is continuous throughout the whole body – from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and fingers. It is made up of collagen, which is a very strong protein and is one of the building blocks of the body; elastin, which allows the fascia to return to its original length when it is stretched in daily movements; and the extra cellular matrix (ECM), which surrounds every cell in the body and is how the nutrients are provided to the cells from the blood stream.”
What happens to myofascia when you are injured?
“When traumatised (accident, surgery, microtrauma from repetitive movements) or held in a habitual position the fascia can contract to support or adhere to itself, and the extra cellular matrix can become dehydrated, reducing the amount of nutrients getting to those cells.”
How can myofascial release help with the recovery process?
“MFR uses gentle and sustained pressure that holds the connective tissue at the first resistance barrier for approximately five minutes. This works with the inherent nature of the constituent parts of the fascia and stimulates the interstitial mechanoreceptors, which are sensors in the body that respond to slow sustained pressures. This allows them to alter and start to change shape (the collagen within the myofascia takes 90 seconds to start to elongate).
“The sustained pressure of MFR also allows the extra cellular matrix to start to soften and rehydrate, allowing greater mobility within the soft tissue. This is aided by the heat of the hands directly on the skin.”
Can MFR help to break down scar tissue?
“The simple answer is yes. When the body is damaged, it creates scar tissue from different types of collagen. A scar is not just a surface injury so there will be a pull further and further into the body, especially with surgical interventions. They can create problems quite some way from the site of the scar tissue.
“Once the wound has fully healed the body then starts to remodel the scar tissue depending on how the body and scar is moving. The collagen of the scar tissue is incredibly strong and will exert a subtle pull through the surrounding tissues, which, if we pay attention to an injury, we can feel. If not interrupted, our body naturally responds to these tensions by thickening the connective tissue and creating shortened areas, which can spread further and further.
“MFR helps to soften the scar tissue itself, reduce the spreading effect of the scar tissue and set up more beneficial tension patterns that allow the body to remodel the scar tissue to reduce further issues.”
What other conditions can MFR be used to treat?
“As it is a full body treatment, MFR can help with a wide range of issues. Things that people come to see me about are backaches, frozen shoulders, headaches, knee pain, TMJD (Temporomandibular Dysfunction), poor posture, whiplash, prostatitis and Fibromyalgia. Personally I came to it because of my own sinus pain caused by TMJD.”
What typically takes place in one of your treatments?
“In a session I look at a person standing from the front, back and from the sides as this gives me an idea of how your body holds itself together when in gravity. I also ask about the clients’ medical history, including accidents, surgery, exercise level, job and stress levels, not because I’m nosey, but so I can get a picture of what might be happening in their body. I then leave so the client can get undressed: MFR is performed with skin on skin contact so the clients needs to strip down to their underwear, bringing a pair of shorts and a bra/bikini top (for women) is helpful.
“Also MFR techniques should not slide on the skin, which is why I use no lotion and clients should not apply moisturisers/body lotions/body butters or sun cream before a treatment. If a client does have these on their skin it severely reduces the effectiveness of the treatment.
“I usually start by taking hold of an arm or the legs as these allow me to feel what is going on in the body. I encourage the client to feel into what is happening in their body as many times we have disassociated the mind from what the body is actually feeling at the time of trauma. Until these are combined again things are unlikely to change. Some clients then start to feel a connection between where I am working and an unrelated part of their body. This can be an indication of where treatment needs to go next.
“John F Barnes, who created this style of MFR 50 years ago and who I have been training with for the last two weeks in Sedona, says “Find the pain, look elsewhere for the cause”. The pain you have is typically a symptom of problems that have built up over many years, which your body has adapted around and it can no longer cope with it. Treating the pain is merely rubbing the symptoms, rather than trying to resolve the issue.”
The role of Pilates in injury rehabilitation
Pilates Teacher, Clerkenwellbeing
What role can Pilates play in injury rehabilitation, particularly sprains and muscle strains?
“There are rehabilitation exercises that we can do in Pilates that will help the injured site. Often the connective tissue in the surrounding area will seize up as an initial protective mechanism but can then start to cause problems of its own.
“Pilates works within a pain-free range of movement and with correct alignment, helps to mobilise tight areas and bring blood flow to the tissues again.”
The injury knock on effect
“When injured, pain and tension can affect the whole body causing knock on problems. Pilates works with the whole body, calming a nervous system alarmed by pain and balancing things out again.
“Often if you come in with an injury the pilates teacher will ‘ignore’ the injured site and work with the rest of the body instead. Physios can give you site specific rehab, Pilates addresses the whole system.”
Are there any particular elements those suffering from a sports injury ought to take into consideration before practising pilates?
“It’s likely you will be out of the acute phase by the time you make it into Pilates but make sure you tell your teacher about your diagnosis, how long since the injury and your levels of pain/swelling.”
Studio versus mat classes
In cases of severe injury or a medical condition, Pilates should be practiced in the studio, rather than as a mat class. Mat classes are very valuable for general wellbeing, alignment and mobility but not necessarily suitable if someone is needing specific rehabilitation.”
Are there any exercises people suffering from knee or ankle injury can do at home to help with rehabilitation or the prevention of injury?
“Often in knee injury, the alignment of the patella – kneecap – is out. Strengthening the VMO (the oblique fibres of the Vastus Medialis – the inner part of thigh just above the knee) stabilises the patella.
“Lie comfortably supported with the back of one knee resting over a roll. “Without over tensing the front of the hip, slowly raise your lower leg up so your leg is straight. The VMO kicks in in the last 15% of the movement. You can place your hands on it to get a feel of it contracting. Try it on the good knee first so you know how it should feel.
“At the top, flex your foot and keep the flex as you lower the foot back down very slowly. Just a centimetre off the ground, pause to release the flex, then lower the last cm down to the ground.
“For ankles you can perform slow circles to keep the area mobile.”