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What is Myofascial Release?

By Jane Birmingham

Are you one of the many people who sustained various sporting injuries in your youth, played on regardless and somehow got over them in time? Did you eventually develop seemingly unrelated pains and aches or stiffness that limited your range of motion and vitality, leading you to seek assistance at the gym or in clinic? You may have heard the term “myofascial release” as it is one of the many new buzz words bandied about in the health and fitness arena today.

You might however come to a point where the gym training, boot camp or cross training has landed you in the clinic because the old injuries have returned along with new more complex and serious problems elsewhere in the body. Drugs may mask pain in the short term but you need to look deeper to find the way back to health and fitness.

The first question you need to ask yourself is why did I injure myself in the first place? I thought I was fit and flexible, but my reflexes were not quick enough to allow me to recover when I was thrown off balance by that flying object/tackle/wave etc, or that unforeseen obstacle in the path of my legs/bike/skateboard/horse… What is it that threw me off balance?

Balance involves a special process that relays information from several of our senses such as sight, hearing and touch, to parts of the brain where split-second calculations initiate responses around the body, known as reflex actions. Speed of the reflex is crucial to saving you from injury on the sporting field. The process I’m talking about here is called proprioception – another buzz word in the health and fitness arena today.

We have all heard the old saying “the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the shin bone, the shin bone…”. But what is it that connects our bones and our muscles together? It’s fascia. When they talk about myofascia they mean the fascia connecting muscles (myo means muscle). So when we want to free up the muscles we need to release the fascia that connects muscle to muscle. But just like the song, this picture is too simplistic because fascia also connects muscle to bone, bone to bone, fascia to fascia, fascia to organs, cells to cells etc.

In fact fascia connects everything to everything else in the body, sort of like a bodywide web. Now there is more than one body wide web – in fact there are many layers. When we are talking about releasing the myofascia you could imagine a number of bodystockings layered under and over each other with gel in between allowing them to slide around in response to tension. Due to scarring from injuries, some parts have been glued together so they can’t slide anymore and they start to pull on each other. The nerve endings that live in between those layers are now being squeezed. The restriction to the nerves may cause pain and inflammation every time you try to move the muscles connected via those layers.

Eventually the whole fascial system starts to thicken and stiffen, it takes more energy to move the muscles and you lose your range of motion. You also lose your sense of proprioception so the split second calculations are not happening properly in the brain and your balance is further impaired. At this point strength training or active stretching will only complicate matters. You need to have proper myofascial release therapy and you need to do passive stretching. Passive stretching uses body weight and time …. ZERO effort. Remember hanging from the monkey bars as a kid? That’s the kind of stretching I’m talking about. Proper myofascial release is very specific, very directional, should not push through pain and takes time to reset your proprioception system. The foam roller does not solve your problems in the long run.

I spend a lot of time showing my clients how to do passive stretching, what it should feel like and types of exercise that can help maintain a healthy balance in the fascial system. A myofascial massage will take between 60 and 90 minutes and I would suggest you have three treatments in sequence over the first two months. After that the ball is really in your court because you need to be in control of your own health and fitness regime with follow up yoga, swimming, dancing or some other form of exercise to keep the fascia supple.

If you have any questions about this form of remedial massage you can always email me on:

More about the author

Jane Birmingham
Jane Birmingham

Known to many as “Jarnie”, Jane Birmingham holds a Diploma of Remedial Massage with distinction from TAFE Katoomba, awarded in 2004. Jarnie Jane has dedicated herself to developing effective and pain-free myofascial release techniques in order to better serve a growing number of loyal clients.

Coming from a performance background, with a BA in Drama, Mime and Modern Dance, she has made the transition to remedial massage practice naturally, and her clients benefit from the legacy of many years in bodywork and muscle maintenance.

Jarnie Jane Birmingham teaches her own “Birmingham Method” of Advanced Myofascial Release massage, a gentle yet dynamic way of manipulating soft tissue (muscles, tendons, and even ligaments). For well over a decade, she has honed her Full-Body Integrated Fascial Shift© in order to ease dysfunctional muscles. It helps to reset the whole fascial system, thus giving clients better body awareness, comfort and range of motion.

Myofascial Release will complement your Remedial Massage and Myotherapy program. When combined with regular yoga practice, swimming and/or pilates training the effects are even better.

Trigger point therapy is another important component of the “Birmingham Method”. Sometimes painful short circuits inhibit muscle contraction. Here Jarnie will use a controlled pressure to gently release them, allowing the muscles to normalize again.

Jarnie’s massage has helped many young women during pregnancy, making stressed mums-to-be much more comfortable throughout. Postnatal treatment is also beneficial for a smooth and trouble free return to normal activity.

For those with chronic pain or discomfort in back, neck, shoulders, hips, legs, arms, feet, hands (in fact any muscle or joint in the body) there is hope of recovery. You can look forward to pain relief along with better comfort levels, strength and flexibility.