How does Myofascial Release help neurological conditions and diseases?
As Myofascial Release therapy continues to grow in popularity, I often have many people curious as to how our neurological physiotherapists use Myofascial Release to treat clients with neurological diseases and conditions. We are now familiar with the benefit that Myofascial Release can have on tight muscles, poor alignment, and tension – but how does Myofascial Release help people with Parkinson’s disease, strokes, spinal cord injuries and much more?
Myofascial Release is a hands-on, manual approach that evaluates the whole body to treat the cause of the symptoms, whether it be pain, tightness etc. Myofascial Release strives to achieve pain-free, efficient movement patterns, through alignment and balancing of the body. This form of therapy manipulates the body’s fascia - a thin connective tissue that runs from the top of the head to the tip of the toes in an uninterrupted web. It surrounds all the organs, lymph and blood vessels, the nerves, the brain and spinal cord, and every muscle in the body. All movement involves muscle and fascia - the fascial system.
When a person has a neurological disease or condition, it means that their neurological system is impaired in some way. Our bodies are all interdependent so when one system in the body is impaired, it often affects the function of all of our other systems. This neurological impairment can cause many physical changes in the body, often including abnormal tone, postural malalignment from improper movement patterns, and reduced mobility. Myofascial Release can help all of these!
Abnormal tone occurs when there is a problem with the state of tension within muscles. This often happens in a variety of neurological conditions and can either result in not enough muscle tension (causing issues with weakness and maintaining postural alignment) or too much muscle tension (often causing rigidity and movement difficulties). Myofascial Release can be used to optimize postural alignment and reduce rigidity and stiffness in the tissue. It can also be used to help reduce tissue tension from spasticity issues (constant muscle contraction).
As well, often a neurological condition can cause a person’s movement patterns to change. For example, the progressive rigidity that occurs with Parkinson’s disease can cause tightness in the body which makes regular movement increasingly difficult. If this tightness is focused more to the right side of the body, then your body may develop other strategies to help you continue to move, such as making your left side work harder. Because the right side is not being used as much, it increasingly becomes tighter and movement continues to become harder for the person. This tightness on the right side also “pulls” the body out of alignment (as tightness causes the fascial tissue to become inflexible and stiff), which could result in pain for the client. Our physiotherapists would use Myofascial Release to reduce the tightness/restrictions in the fascia and muscles that has developed from both the rigidity of Parkinson’s Disease and the tightness caused by limited mobility. Releasing this tightness allows clients to re-establish proper postural alignment and helps to re-establish more normal patterns of movement.
In addition, the various systems in our body (i.e. the vestibular system) functions at its optimal state when the body is in alignment. For example, the rigidity from Parkinson’s Disease can cause a person to “hunch” due to the fascial tightness it is causing. There is a great amount of research that shows that our reaction and response times decrease when our body is in a “hunched” position in which we are not in proper postural alignment. This decrease in our body’s reaction time shows that there is dysfunction in our vestibular system. If our vestibular system is not working in its optimal state, then the body’s ability to process stimuli information is reduced, which results in decreased function. Tightness in a specific side of the body can also cause our vestibular system to become hypersensitive or hyposensitive on that side of the body. For example, if you are tight in your head and neck on your right side it may affect you’re your vestibular system’s function on the right side of the body . This can cause one to neglect that side of the body, motor control issues, and chronic pain.
In conclusion, our physiotherapists have continued to pursue the Myofascial Release curriculum because they see the benefits and changes it creates in their neurological clients every day they go to work. Myofascial Release will continue to grow in popularity and for good reason. People see and feel the results.