Whole Body Healing
Myofascial Release, MFR, the John F. Barnes Approach

Myofascial Release Therapy

What is Fascia?

Fascia is 'connective tissue' that runs throughout the body in a three-dimensional web, from head-to-feet without interruption.  It is made of 3 components: elastin, collagen and a poly-saccharide gel extracellular matrix, or (ECM).  When healthy, fascia provides shock absorption and is the main messaging system of our bodies.  

Fascia is the immediate environment for each cell in the body.  Because it surrounds and connects everything; muscles, nerves, blood vessels, organs and bones, down to the cellular level, this system profoundly influences all other structures and systems of the body.

Malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, inflammation, our daily postural habits, repetitive stress, or surgery, etc., can create a binding down, tightening, or even solidifying of the fascia.  Fascia can also become restricted or solidified because of mental or emotional bracing, responding to imagined or perceived danger.  

Have you ever felt a 'stuckness'?  Or have you felt you don't have the range of motion you used to?  This could be a restriction in your tissues.  Sometimes our muscles get sort of 'glued' together.  When this happens muscles can become weak, or nonfunctional.  The body responds by asking surrounding muscles to do the work of the weak one.  Compensation patterns develop, which can throw us off balance and overwork the compensating muscles.  Restrictions cause tissues to dehydrate, become brittle and easy to tear and this can result in excessive pressure on pain-sensitive structures inside our bodies.  That causes pain, discomfort and/or limited motion and function.  

The ECM of fascia is the fluidity of our bodies.  So, if we are restricted long enough, it's possible that areas of our tissues have become solidified.  When that happens, our bodies have to work much harder to perform their basic functions and sometimes our cells aren't able to absorb nutrients, hydration, or oxygen.  Even if we drink tons of water, our bodies may not be absorbing it.  When this happens, the cells also aren't able to excrete toxins and waste, so that gunk might stay trapped inside, essentially poisoning our cells.

Since many of today's standardized tests like CAT scans, X-rays, electromyography, MRIs, etc, don't show fascial restrictions, many people suffering from pain and lack of motion may be having fascial problems, but, most go undiagnosed.

What is John F. Barnes Myofascial Release?

The fascial system is very protective, so it will resist a suddenly applied force.  This explains why faster or more aggressive forms of therapy only produce temporary results or aren't effective at all.  John F. Barnes form of Myofascial Release therapy is a safe and highly effective manual therapy that involves applying a slow, gentle stretch into the fascial network.  It can provide amazing results such as decreasing pain and increasing range of motion.  John F. Barnes developed this treatment following his own injury and finding that traditional physical therapy was not effective for him.  It gets results and never injures anyone.  He has been teaching this holistic approach to myofascial release over 40 years.  Research is finally helping to explain and prove what he intuitively knew all those years ago.

Myofascial Release is helpful for these conditions:

  • adhesions, 'feeling stuck', myofascial pain syndrome
  • back pain, pelvic pain, sciatica, disc problems
  • headaches, migraines, sinus problems
  • fibromyalgia,
  • sports injuries, repetitive stress injuries,
  • frozen shoulder,
  • painful scars,
  • birth injuries,
  • bladder problems,
  • post traumatic stress disorders,
  • carpal tunnel syndrome,
  • whiplash injuries, neck pain, jaw pain, TMJ
  • chronic fatigue syndrome
  • neurological dysfunction
  • womens' health issues
  • postural alignment issues like scoliosis, etc.  

Gentle pressure is applied into an area of restriction, like sinking into soft clay.  This is done without sliding on the skin, therefore no oil or lotion is used during these sessions.  The compression must be sustained at least 90-120 seconds in order for the collagen component of the connective tissue to 'un-stick'.  Then continued pressure for 5 minutes or more, for each restriction, allows the solidified ECM tissues to soften and begin re-hydrating, allowing for more freedom of movement.  Waiting for this change to occur is key to producing a lasting result.  It is important to focus your attention inside your body, noticing what you feel.  The therapist is not "fixing you", instead is providing a safe environment, facilitating and allowing you to progress on your own healing journey.

To prepare for a myofascial (MFR) session, please wear clothing that gives the therapist as much contact with the skin as possible, perhaps a sports bra, bikini top and either bikini bottoms, underwear, or loose fitting athletic shorts.  We begin with a standing postural analysis which can provide information about your body that day, including where you may be restricted.  During the session, you aren't always draped with a sheet because you may be sitting on the massage table or lying on your side, based on what areas need work.  You want to be comfortable and able to move around.  Areas of the body that feel hot, hard or tender indicate fascial restrictions.  We might be working somewhere that is seemingly unrelated to your pain or injury, but, because of the connections inside your body, this can help relieve your pain conditions.  We treat the whole body and not just the symptoms.  The location of the pain or dysfunction is not always where the restriction is located.  We will not always address the whole body in one session, the way a massage does, but the whole body is affected since the fascial system is throughout.  

Please do not use any lotion, after showering, the day of the session.  The therapist's hands need to be able to connect into the skin, without sliding, in order to be effective.  This is not the type of appointment where one should "check out".  Much benefit is found when you stay present with your body and feel.  Quieting ourselves, tuning in, to keep awareness inside the body during a session and providing feedback on feelings or sensations can boost the effectiveness of the session.  Because our bodies store past emotions and/or trauma, in the connective tissue, sometimes there will be spontaneous movement or emotional releases during the session or in the days after.  This is our body's way of self correcting.  If you can ‘take your brakes off’ and open up to releasing some of that 'trapped energy', you may be able to progress in your healing process faster.  Please ask any questions you may have.  I look forward to working with you to heal.

Here is a video clip , from Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau, that shows human fascia.  Check out his YouTube for longer videos of our internal architecture. 

For more information about our amazing fascial system visit www.myofascialrelease.com and read the articles written by John F. Barnes.

Kathryn Hollars has trained directly under John F. Barnes, PT, who developed this powerful and effective therapy.  She has attended Myofascial Release I x 2, Myofascial Release II x 2, Unwinding x 2, Advanced Unwinding, Cervical Thoracic therapy, Fascial Pelvis therapy, Myofascial Rebounding, Subtle Energy, MFR Healing Seminar x 2, T4T (a week of therapy for the therapist), Skill Enhancement Seminar, (a week of intensive, internship-style training, at the Sedona John Barnes' Myofascial treatment center), and Myofascial Release III).