Myofascial Release
Myofascial Release

Myofascial Release, the “Missing Link”

By John F. Barnes , PT, LMT, BCTMB

Myofascial Release, the “Missing Link”

By John F. Barnes, PT, LMT, BCTMB

I consider Myofascial Release to be the ‘missing link’ in all forms of therapy, massage, body work and energy techniques. The addition of the ‘missing link’ of Myofascial Release into what you do will greatly increase your effectiveness and ability to help others. The following is Part 1 of a two-part series of articles which will give you my perspective of Myofascial Release and answer some common questions that I often hear in my Myofascial Release seminars around the country.

How did I develop my Myofascial Release approach?

Why do I consider the treatment of the fascia important?

How is my approach different from others that treat the fascia system? 

What are the benefits?

For years, my critics would say ‘if what John was saying were true, then science would have to be wrong.’ My intuition allows me to see images and I have an instinctive ‘felt’ sense while treating clients. I realized that so much of what we were taught about the fascial system was incorrect. I have over 50 years of experience successfully treating clients from all over the world where prescription medication, surgery, and other therapies that have been unsuccessful.

As you may have heard, the fascial system received and continues to receive national attention since April 2018. What the researchers stated is that the old way of studying the fascial system on dead people and smashing it together, gave incorrect or false information about the fascial system.

New laser technology allows researchers to view the three-dimensional web of the fascial system and the very important fluid component that until now was ignored. The principles that I developed for my approach focus not only on the cross-links within the fibrous web, but also the solidification of the fluid component of the fascial system. The dehydration of the ground substance creates crushing pressure on pain sensitive structures after trauma, surgery, and thwarted inflammatory responses.

People ask how I developed my Myofascial Release Approach. I was a very good athlete when I was younger, I play-ed football, drove motorcycles, skied, ran track. I was involved with competitive karate and weight lifting. One day when I went to the gym to work out for a competition, there was no one in the gym to spot me. I was squatting with over 300 pounds and could not get up. I had been a gymnast so I thought I would just do a back roll forgetting that I had been holding a 300 pound bar in my hands and couldn’t let go with my hands, I crashed with incredible force.

I herniated the disc at L5, ripped ligaments in the sacroiliac and lumbar areas. I lay on the floor stunned, and numb from the waist down. Eventually as the numbness wore off the pain began. It was horrible. In this instant everything that I loved—motion and competition—was taken from me. Life became a struggle. I was surprised that physical therapy did not help. I tried all forms of massage and bodywork as well and only had temporary results. Nothing seemed to work for the long term. No one wanted to get better more than I did.

Eventually, out of desperation, I would lie on my living room floor and push into the areas that hurt and felt hard. I was still very strong and I tried to ‘bull’ my way through. I then learned to be gentler and to spend more time in the restricted area which led me to finally make significant progress experiencing less pain and restoring motion.

Treating the Fascial System

As I was treating myself I felt sensations far beyond the origin and insertion of muscles and realized I must be treating the fascial system. I had been asked to teach TMJ specialists, physicians and therapists at the Philadelphia Osteopathic College. I had access to their library and wanted to see what they knew about the fascial system. The founder of osteopathy Dr. Andrew Still had some very good insights into the fascial system, but I believe he was likely saddled with the osteopathic form of Myofascial Release which is what I call the old form of Myofascial Release, an attempt to force a system that cannot be forced. It is very painful and only produces short term, temporary results.

As I continued to treat myself, I realized that I had to spend more time at the restriction and to be more gentle. I made an incredible turn around on my life and I then began to apply Myofascial Release to my clients providing remarkable success where nothing else had worked for them.

The fascial system becomes restricted and tightened by trauma, surgery and thwarted inflammatory responses. It is important to understand that the fascial system when restricted can produce tensile strengths up to approximately 2,000 pounds per square inch. That’s crushing pressure on pain sensitive structures, equivalent to two full grown horses standing on a nerve. It’s no wonder we hurt.

It is very important for our clients to understand that fascial restrictions do not show up in standard testing, such as X-rays, CAT scans, myelograms, and blood work so the fascial restrictions have been misdiagnosed or ignored for long period of time.