What is Massage Therapy?
Therapeutic massage has a long history going back to at least the second century B.C. Hippocrates, the father of medicine himself, helped popularize its therapeutic benefits in the west. Today, massage therapy is more popular than ever. Obviously people get something out of it. But do they get enough out of it?
Massage as an application of soft-tissue manipulation used to reduce stress, tension and fatigue is very effective. It helps people feel great, if only temporarily. There are many variations and styles of massage all of which feel quite wonderful depending the skill of your therapist.
Most therapists provide some version of Myofascial Massage, otherwise known as deep tissue. More than easing tension, the goal of Myofascial Massage is generally aimed at reducing pain or enhancing function. Many people prefer it to relaxation massage because the techniques are generally deeper, helping recipients feel good and more thoroughly worked over.
If you make a habit of it, Myofascial Massage can be helpful for pain prevention. It tills the soil as it were, enhancing naturally occurring physiological processes to eliminate the build-up of metabolic waste, which may otherwise stagnate around nerve endings, triggering pain. Myofascial Massage is also a welcome reward after a day’s work in the garden or some other strenuous physical activity.
Massage Therapy Has its Limitations
Fortunately, science has evolved along with the profession, aiding in the development of more specialized forms of manual therapy capable of preventing, reducing or eliminating more serious, chronic or widespread conditions.
Myofascial Release is the most well-known of these therapies. It combines the best of both worlds, stress-reducing, compassionate touch provided in the context of more effective, specialized techniques. These techniques consistently unlock and optimize the structural balance of twisted, crooked bodies, which is very often the underlying cause of symptoms.
Treating the cause of symptoms
Symptoms often appear in areas well removed from their causes. It’s critical to evaluate individuals as they stand or move vertically in gravity, looking for their unique structural compensations. Has your tone and structural alignment been evaluated in this way? This is the only way treatments can be customized to address your unique imbalances, which give rise to symptoms, instead of band-aiding symptoms alone.
Treatments must be customized to your unique posture, imbalances, and pain.
Most therapies view the symptoms as the beginning and end of the problem. It’s only through realizing that all parts of the body are literally held together by the same cloth – the connective tissue called fascia – that one can begin to understand how symptoms can be and often are merely the mouthpiece of a larger problem. They act up in order to get your attention, calling you to action.
Treating symptoms has value, of course; the squeaky wheel gets the grease. But the wheel usually squeaks because it’s misaligned or the entire frame is bent. Grease alone is seldom enough. More often than not, as soon as one symptom is pacified another one pops up. It’s important to treat the whole body for the complete resolution of symptoms.
What is Myofascial Release?
Over the past 50 years, John Barnes, PT transformed the traditional forms of Myofascial Release into an art form consisting of basic principles and deceptively simple techniques. When used correctly, these principles and techniques enable profound awareness and healing on all levels: body, mind and spirit, making this a uniquely comprehensive therapy. It has considerable research and mountains of anecdotal evidence proving its efficacy.
Myofascial Release (MFR) reduces or eliminates pain, making it easier to move. MFR is characterized by sustained gentle pressure used to thoroughly soften and liquify hard or tender areas within the fluid components of connective tissue while simultaneously separating, straightening and stretching its fibrous components.
The Biggest Difference
One significant difference between Myofascial Release and Myofascial Massage is that the later tends to be done with a lubricant. Using a lubricant drastically reduces a therapist’s effectiveness when the desired outcome is anything more than temporary gains. The very purpose of myofascial work can’t be adequately achieved under these circumstances, as the resilient, structural fibers of fascia can’t be effectively “hooked” to improve their organization and length. Lubricated techniques do little more than temporarily soften the hardened fluid aspects of the myofascia.
Traditional forms of Myofascial Release do not use a lubricant and are therefore quite good at hooking the fascial fibers. These approaches tend to be more effective than Myofascial Massage at reducing pain, but still of limited benefit for the deepest and most persistent conditions. The problem with these other methods is that they tend to be too fast and forceful. Structural problems just can’t be forced into compliance.
It is sometimes necessary to treat unusually bound or adhered tissue more aggressively. Most of the time, however, these restricted areas respond extremely well to the gentle, sustained techniques characteristic of Barnes method MFR. These areas require several minutes or more of sustained treatment in order to stretch and align their resilient, structural nature. Time makes the biggest difference to fully soften, lengthen and reorganize the myofascial system, and only Barnes method MFR consistently seeks to resolve problems in this way.
The therapeutic benefits of Barnes method Myofascial Release reach beyond other myofascial approaches by optimizing the stubborn, structural aspects of the body explaining its unparalleled effectiveness at reducing or eliminating even long standing, chronic conditions.