Massage therapy
Massage therapy

Myofascial Release and Massage Therapy: A Winning Combination

By John F. Barnes, PT, LMT
May 10, 2023

Myofascial Release and Massage Therapy: A Winning Combination

By John F. Barnes, PT, LMT
May 10, 2023

Myofascial release, especially when paired with massage therapy, can be very helpful in keeping your clients' pain in check, as well as for general health and well-being. To get the most benefit, however, massage therapists need to pay attention to their pacing and not be afraid of slowing way down.


Injuries are rare with myofascial release because we never use force. In turn, time is a very important factor that can sometimes significantly differ from other massage therapy techniques.

The art of myofascial release uses our “feeling intelligence” to find the barrier, and that barrier has a very unique feel, almost like you hit a brick wall. Instead of forcing through the barrier or moving over it, stay there. Use gentle but firm pressure sustained over time, for at least five minutes.

See Also: Myofascial Release as a Self-Care Tool

This five-minute period (or longer) is very important. All forms of massage, as great as they are, only release 20% of the fascial system—the elastic and muscular component. Releasing the other 80% of the collagenous barrier is the key for profound and long-lasting results. So, I've come to believe that combining myofascial release with massage therapy can produce effective and long-lasting results.


Somewhere around the five-minute period of pressure, a number of phenomena begin to occur to provide for authentic healing, the first of which is “piezoelectricity,” which is a Greek word for pressure electricity. In other words, our sustained pressure into the barrier begins to create a bioelectrical flow within the system.

Next, our mechanical pressure is converted into biochemical changes that create hormonal effects at the professioncellular level. This process is called “mechanotransduction.” Research has shown that mechanotransduction produces interleukein-8—our bodies natural anti-inflammatory—as well as interleukin-3 and interleukin-1B, which may help increase circulation and boost immunity.

Eventually, we move into “phase transition,” which is similar to the phenomenon of ice turning into water. This is where the solidified collagenous barrier starts to rehydrate so the tissue can glide again.

Remember, the fascial system is a glide system. When we have restrictions, it is like the tissue is glued together, prohibiting proper movement and producing enormous pressure on our pain-sensitive structures.

See Also: Seeing Your Client as a Whole Person

Finally, we reach the phase called “resonance.” When massage therapists touch another person for a sustained period of time without too much force, the vibratory rates between themselves and their client begin to meld identically, and that’s what we call a release.

The technique I’m about to explain to you can be very good for pelvic pain.

As with all massage techniques, be sure you’re checking with your state’s regulatory body to ensure your practicing within scope.


With myofascial release, you always approach the body slowly without any oil or lotion whatsoever because you don’t want to slide on the surface. So, if you’re combining myofascial release with other massage techniques, consider starting with myofascial release and finishing with massage.

To begin, put one hand on the adductor, very close to the bone. Ask for your client’s permission and explain what you’re doing first.

Your hand doesn’t grip but, rather, sinks down, in towards the femur, until you feel mild resistance. Your fingers should be soft, like you’re making hand prints in soft clay.

Push gently toward the knee very slowly, without sliding. Not sliding is very important. Often, you’ll hit a myofascial barrier.

Wait there patiently.

Then, use your free hand to push the lower abdomen slowly toward the table.

Often, you’ll feel resistance.

Then, without sliding, pull the hand up toward the thorax until you feel resistance in that direction.

Wait there patiently.

Repeat the process with the other leg.

Myofascial release needs repetition because there are often multiple layers that need release. This technique is not meant to replace massage therapy, rather enhance its effects. By moving slow, sinking in and working with patience, we can extend the benefits of our work for our clients.