What can you tell me about myofascial release therapy as a treatment for back pain? Does it work?

Answer From Brent A. Bauer, M.D.

Myofascial (my-o-FASH-e-ul) release is a therapy technique often used in massage. This therapy is focused on pain that comes from myofascial tissues — the tough coverings that wrap, connect and support muscles.

Myofascial pain may differ from other types of pain because it often originates in "trigger points." Trigger points are stiff areas within the myofascial tissue. The pain that a trigger point causes is often hard to pinpoint, though. The trigger points may not always be near what feels like the source of pain.

During myofascial release therapy, the therapist applies light pressure by hand to find myofascial areas that feel stiff instead of elastic and movable. These stiff areas, or trigger points, are thought to limit muscle and joint movements, which can play a part in widespread muscle pain.

The massage and stretching used in myofascial release therapy can help loosen muscles and joints. This may help indirectly ease your back pain.

Many studies have found that massage, spine manipulation and other therapies done by hand work as well as other treatments for back pain. Few studies, however, have tested myofascial release therapy specifically, partly because myofascial release therapy techniques vary from therapist to therapist.

If you've been told that myofascial release therapy may be helpful for your back pain, consult a therapist who has training in the technique.

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April 13, 2023 See more Expert Answers