Understanding Myofascial Release

Myofascial pain syndrome is muscle pain characterized by inflammation of the soft tissues. It affects the fascia (tissue that covers the muscles) and may lead to the development of trigger points. Trigger points can cause referred pain, which makes it tricky to determine the source and exact location of your pain. 

Here at Precision Laser Joint and Spine Pain Center in Glen Burnie, Maryland, Dr. Dustin Hamoy may suggest physical therapy to reduce pain associated with myofascial pain syndrome. 

Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy used to treat myofascial pain syndrome, but not everyone is familiar with this method. In this blog, we dive deeper into what myofascial release is and how it can help you get relief. 

What is myofascial release and how does it work?

Myofascial release is a type of physical therapy that focuses on reducing your pain by reducing the tension in the trigger points. For this reason, myofascial release is sometimes called trigger point therapy. A trigger point is an intensely irritable band of muscle tissue, and pressing on this spot can cause local pain (i.e., in the spot you press) or referred pain (i.e., pain somewhere else). For example, if you press on a trigger point on your shoulder, but it causes pain in your neck or head, that’s referred pain. 

It isn’t always easy to pinpoint which specific trigger point is responsible for the pain you might feel. That’s why myofascial release is often used over larger areas of muscle rather than one single point. 

Normal myofascial tissue should feel elastic or even pliable. Dr. Hamoy massages your myofascial, looking for any stiff or tightened areas that may be indicative of a trigger point. When or if Dr. Hamoy discovers any tight bands of tissue, he then applies light manual pressure to stretch these tissues. This light pressure and stretching helps to release the tension. This is how myofascial release earned its name: It helps to release pressure and tightness in the myofascial sheath.

The manual process is repeated many times over the same trigger point as well as on other trigger points until Dr. Hamoy determines that the tension is fully released.

Types of trigger points

Now that we’ve made the connection between myofascial pain syndrome and trigger points, let’s look closer at trigger points. During your exam, Dr. Hamoy may discover any of the following four types of trigger points:

  1. Active trigger points, which may feel light nodules (or knots) within the taut band of muscle. These are tender (and produce a twitch if touched) and cause referred pain.
  2. Latent trigger points, which are nodules that don’t cause pain when pressed. They can remain latent for years. Stress, trauma, and injury can activate them.
  3. Secondary trigger points, which are painful spots in the muscle that are activated when you stress a different muscle.
  4. Satellite myofascial points, which are painful spots that are activated simply because they’re located near another trigger point.

When these trigger points are massaged, it increases blood flow to the muscle. It also warms up muscles. Increased blood flow helps to reduce stiffness as well as ease pain. Manual pressure on your trigger points might aggravate the knot (and cause pain), but it then releases the muscle tension.

Who benefits from myofascial release?

If you have myofascial pain syndrome, you may benefit from this type of therapy. You might suspect you have myofascial pain syndrome if you spot these symptoms:

You may also benefit from myofascial release if you have tension headaches caused by stiff neck or shoulder muscles.

This therapy isn’t right for everyone. Myofascial release isn’t ideal for those with burn wounds, broken or fragile bones, or taking certain medications (like blood thinning medication).

To learn more about myofascial release or our other therapies, call Dr. Hamoy at 410-324-2968 to schedule your appointment. Alternatively, try our online booking tool to request an appointment today.

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