Thursday, August 27, 2015

Myofascial Release

Myofascial release is a deep-tissue work whose focus is to relieve pain, resolve structural dysfunction, and improve function, mobility, and posture. “Myofascia” refers to the combined anatomical system of muscles (“myo”) and fascia. Fascia is a continuous web of connective tissue found throughout the entire body, It surrounds every muscle, nerve, blood vessel, and organ, and holds all these structures together, giving them their shape, offering support and interconnecting the body as a whole.

Myofascial release has its roots in Connective Tissue Massage (Bindegewebsmassage) which was developed by Elizabeth Dicke who lived in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. This work consisted of light strokes whose theoretical purpose was to improve circulation in subcutaneous connective tissue, resulting in reflex action to other parts of the body, including visceral organs.

The term “myofascial release” was coined by Robert Ward, DO, (Doctor of Osteopathy) in the 1960s. John Barnes, PT, (Physical Therapist) adopted the term as designation for his method of freeing fascial restriction, and this is a popular form of myofascial therapy practiced today.
Myofascial Release to the Lower Ribcage

Another important figure in the development of myofascial therapies, and someone whose work more directly influences my own, was Ida Rolf, PhD who taught in the 1960s and 1970s. Dr. Rolf developed a ten-session series of work that she called Structural Integration and that later was trademarked as RolfingTM. Dr. Rolf was very influenced by osteopathic manipulation; through her ten-session series, she sought to re-establish vertical alignment in the body by manipulating fascial layers. I studied this work in 2002-2003 at the CORETM Institute with George Kousaleos and, upon certification, I continued my education, studying with Certified Advanced Rolfer Liz Gaggini and also studying with KMI/Anatomy Trains faculty (Tom Myers, James Earls, and Simone Lindner).

Simone Lindner, while still maintaining a busy teaching schedule with KMI, is currently serving on our faculty in the Sports Medicine Acupuncture Certification Program, where she teaches Anatomy Trains principles in the Fascial Release for Myofascial Meridians (FRMM) course. This has been an extremely rewarding experience, as I teach in the Anatomy, Palpation and Cadaver Lab in a two-day course prior to the FRMM course, where I lecture on the sinew channels discussed in the Chinese meridian system. These have much crossover with the anatomy discussed in the anatomy trains system.

After my class, Simone then teaches fascial release techniques to work with these lines to restore structural balance. I assist with this class and occasionally help relate this information into TCM language more familiar to acupuncturists. This has been a tremendous amount of fun and a very educational experience for me personally, as well as for class participants. Matt Callison (the director of SMAC) and I then follow up and review some of these techniques in the Assessment and Treatment class, which usually takes place about a month later. In this class we teach assessment of injuries and conditions and using the assessment results to build treatment protocols, primarily geared around acupuncture, but also prominently featuring myofascial release techniques.

Much of this work, in addition to work from other Structural Integration practitioners (my original teacher, George Kousaleos, and a current influence of mine, Advance Rolfer Til Luchau) has made its way into a course I am teaching at East West College of Natural Medicine. I teach many classes there, including Anatomy and Physiology, Orthopedic Evaluation, and Acupoint Anatomy, but more and more I have been teaching myofascial release techniques as part of the Tuina curriculum. The goal is to make this work accessible to acupuncture physicians in training so that they can improve the therapeutic outcome of their treatments and more deeply understand the sinew channels and how they relate to global strain patterns. To see more on this, visit my past blog post Teaching and Tuina.

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