Chronic disorders of the musculoskeletal system affect 23 million Americans and are the leading cause of disabilities across most age groups.1 One of the most common disorders is myofascial pain syndrome, in which pain is generated and movement is inhibited by tightly bound fascia or by trigger points in the muscle. With movement being the main goal of your therapy, releasing these pain points to increase blood flow and improve range of motion should be an integral part of your practice.
Whether treating an elite athlete training for competition or helping an injured father who wants to play outside with his children, myofascial release should be implemented both during your clinical treatments and as an at-home mobility treatment. Massage therapy is no longer only thought of as an indulgent, pampering luxury; there is ample research being conducted about the therapeutic benefits of massage in relieving myofascial pain.
The mechanical stimulation of trigger points via massage manually moves the waste molecules that have gathered around bundles of contracted sarcomeres, allowing nutrient rich blood to enter the muscle fiber and repair damage to the muscle.
Aside from massage, there are a few myofascial release instruments that your patients can use on their own. Foam rollers have quickly become a staple recovery tool, and many of them are designed to mimic the stimulation from fingers, a testament to the effectiveness of manual massage. A ridged or raised texture on a foam roller provides pressure and palpitates depleted blood, adhesions and lactic acid out of the muscles. Studies have shown that after just 2 minutes of foam rolling, there is an 8-degree range of motion increase.2
Smaller myofascial release tools like massage balls achieve the same results in hard-to-reach areas. By prescribing self-myofascial release to your patients, they’ll be able to work out their trigger points and tight fascia regularly to achieve their full range of motion.
However, patient compliance with home exercise programs can be difficult between patient’s making time for them and performing the treatments properly. Dr. Ed Le Cara of RockTape has found a solution in his use of kinesiology tape during his appointments. “The results are two fold,” Dr. Le Cara states, “First, the brain will now interact with the taped area at a higher level for as long as the tape is on (and possibly longer.)”
Your patient’s brain increases the association between the motor control enhancement of your therapy and soft tissue mobilization. “Second, the patient sees the tape on the body and remembers to do their part to make the rehabilitation process proceed swiftly.” Taping also provides a trail map on your patient’s body of areas in need of myofascial release, so they can simply foam roll where the tape has been applied.
Encouraging your patients to perform self-myofascial release will accelerate their treatment to get their bodies moving properly again. Methods such as foam rolling are therapeutic movements that will improve neuromuscular efficiency, increase joint range of motion, and eliminates trigger points and soreness. Too often rest is prescribed to patients who are interested in restoring their regular mobility, when in fact movement exercises like foam rolling should be employed. Studies have shown that 6-10 days of inactivity can result in a reduction in total aerobic capacity, a decrease in muscle glycogen content and reduced glucose tolerance.3
Inactivity effectively destroys any progress your patient has previously made in recovery and strength, so prescribing myofascial release exercises is a crucial part of treatment. Given that a staggering 10 percent of Americans who suffer from myofascial pain syndrome, returning patients to their full range of motion with the proper treatment is a top priority for your practice.
By implementing mobility exercises through massage therapy, foam rolling, massage balls and other tools, your patients will reverse the effects of prolonged sitting. Showing your patients how to move when injured will promote more movement; and the better your patients are able to move, the more they will move.
1: Alvarez, David J., D.O., Rockwell, Pamela G., D. O. “Trigger Points: Diagnosis and Management.” American Family Physician. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Medical School; February 2002.
2 & 3: RockTape. “Movement Manifesto.” RockTape, 2015. Online.