Editors note: Always consult your primary physician before undergoing any form of medical treatment.
Millions of Americans deal with chronic pain on a daily basis. The ongoing struggle with pain management has led to an epidemic of opioid addiction and a rapid increase in deaths due to overdose.
Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. nearly quadrupled, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Deaths from prescription opioids — drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone —have more than quadrupled since 1999, according to the Center for Disease control.
For some — dealing with specific, treatable chronic pain — alternative medicine now offers additional methods to deal with the often debilitating pain.
One such treatment, myofascial release uses message therapy to “work out the kinks in the body” by releasing built up tension from specific anchor points in the body.
“We use hands-on manual therapy to release trigger points verses an injection or medications for specific myofascial trigger points,” Amber McCuller, M.D., Odyssey Health Care, said. “In my experience,(more than 20 years as a physical therapist in Ardmore) it’s one of the gentlest techniques for pain release. It also helps with movement.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique often used in massage.
“Fascial is the connective tissue that surrounds all the nerves and muscle tissue,” Jeri Gill, Odyssey Health Care. “It also carries nerve sensations. It can be thicker or thiner in some areas. Studies have shown that it can thicken so much that it puts 2000 pounds of pressure per square inch on a small focal point.”
Gill said the tension can cause long-term pain and can ne difficult to diagnose through x-ray or MRI technology and often worsens over time.
“People can be experiencing pain and chronic pain and the doctors can’t find anything wrong,” Gill said. “They don’t have a way to measure the fascial tension in the body.”
Gill described the treatment as similar to the way a stocking hose will have a pull or a run in it. The stressed area will focus tension to a specific area and often cause secondary pain throughout the body by putting further strain on a different muscle group. For example, the primary source of pain in the lower back may be the result of an injury to the neck or lower in the body. Gill said the treatment focuses on those trigger points and therapist will work their way down the muscle to release the tension.
“You don’t really just go to a weak spot,’ McCullers said. “You may have pain in the lower body, but you can go to the upper body where you have the pull and the stress and you can release from there.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, many studies have found that massage, chiropractic manipulation and similar manual therapies work as well as other treatments for back pain. Few studies, however, have tested myofascial release therapy specifically, partly because the exact elements of myofascial release therapy vary from therapist to therapist.
“You’re treating the cause, not just the symptoms. It’s more of a whole person management than an irritation base treatment.”
McCullers said that in some cases, the myofascial system will tighten down to create stability for muscles that were weakened by past injuries.
“With a lot of the chronic pain people, we start with the myofascial treatment,” Gill said. “Once we release that, they get their movement back, then we begin to strengthen them. Once we release that we show them some stretches that can help strengthen the muscles that are causing the issue.”
Gill said that some chronic pain can be caused by a weakness in the body that forces muscles that don’t typically support certain movements to pull extra duty to compensate. Gill added that most patients are referred by their primary care physician.
According to Myofascial Release as a Treatment for Orthopaedic Conditions: A Systematic Review, anecdotal evidence shows great promise for myofascial release as a treatment for orthopaedic conditions. However, evidence-based research to support the anecdotal evidence is lacking. According to the study, myofascial release is inherently not evidence-based medicine since the application relies on clinician-patient interaction, it cannot be a neutral treatment; therefore, the subjectivity of the interaction cannot be removed when trying to determine its outcome.
Consult your doctor before undergoing any new treatment.