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Myofascial Release: a once-controversial technique is now a growing field

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MFR Myofascial Release

Myofascial Release: a once-controversial technique is now a growing field

By: Lisa Satalino, BS, PT

My journey with Fascia began in 1986.  I was a young Physical Therapist, fresh out of college and excited to use all of the tools I learned in school to improve the lives of my patients. I didn’t know anything about Myofascial Release, but would soon learn.

Mysterious Chronic Pain Cases

As I began to practice the skills I learned in college, I realized there was a population of patients that didn’t respond to traditional physical therapy practices.  In general, they had painful syndromes that didn’t necessarily indicate a specific diagnosis. Diagnostic findings – like x-rays, blood tests, and MRI’s -came out either negative or inconclusive.

Some of my fellow (more seasoned) peers were frustrated by this population and considered them either attention seekers or psychologically impaired.

Intuitively this did not make sense to me.  Who wants to be in pain and to have impaired function?  Why would anyone seek answers from doctor after doctor and undergo the cost and time required to pursue diagnostic tests, hospitalization, psychological scrutiny, and rejection by people who do not understand what it is like to live inside the skin of a person in pain?

Myofascial Release: A Controversial Technique

A clue came to me one day when an experienced therapist took me behind a curtain and taught me a cross hand release.  She whispered, “Try this.  It is called Myofascial Release.  It is very controversial and you will be ostracized if anyone knows you are using it.”

Want a detailed description of MFR? Read John Barnes’ definition here. 

MFR Myofascial Release

Cross hand MFR technique

It didn’t seem like such a mysterious technique to me. Since I knew nothing of hospital politics at the time, I gave it a try with the patients who did not respond to my traditional PT techniques.

What was mysterious to me was that this technique worked.  I began making progress with the “lost causes” and thus began accumulating them on my caseload as fellow therapists were more than happy to turn these folks over to the new therapist with a weird curiosity for “chronic pain patients.”

It took me another four years to find the courage to actually take a Myofascial Release class with John F. Barnes.  At that point I had taken many traditional manual therapy continuing education classes and found that each new tool I learned added to my success with my patients.  But still, I knew there was a missing link.

The Missing Link Revealed

Ten minutes into John Barnes’ lecture on the fascial system my light bulb went off.  The missing link had to be the fascial system.  I took Gross Anatomy in college.  Fascia was everywhere.  We cut thru it to see muscles and bones and organs and nerves and blood vessels.  How could it not have a purpose?  Nothing in our body is without a purpose and unlike organs and bones and muscles and nerves and blood vessels this stuff is everywhere and connects with everything.

In that moment, I no longer saw the world as flat.  I realized it was round.  In the 25 years I’ve been practicing Myofascial Release, I realized that not only is the world round but there is an entire universe out there.  And we know almost nothing in comparison to the universal vastness.

And so I continue to be a fascia geek.  It is a pleasure to have watched this topic grow in acceptance and popularity.  I avidly read all of the updates on fascial research and am in awe that we now have textbooks and pictures and diagnostic tools to assess this amazing web we live in.  One can never become bored with the vastness of the universe.

Ready to add MFR to your tool kit? Fascia Week starts August 28th. Register for classes now. 

Lisa Satalino, BS, PTLisa M. Satalino, BS, PT is the Executive Director at the CNWSMT. She created the MFR curriculum for CNWSMT and has developed an 118-hour Certification program in MFR for the school’s Continuing Education program. She has taken all of John F. Barnes’ courses, has passed Barnes’ Proficiency Assessment, and has worked as an assistant instructor and coordinator for John F. Barnes’ seminars nationally.  After 25 years practicing physical therapy as a manual therapist Lisa has retired from her private practice “the Center for Myofascial Wellness” to act as the Executive Director of CNWSMT.

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