Sunday, January 12, 2020

When Your Frozen Muscles Need Help: Myotherapies for Managing Myofascial Pain

When the myofascia isn’t free to move, other muscle movement is also impaired. This leads to joint dysfunction and chronic PAIN. This pain is universal with distinctive patterns that remain consistent in all people. In some cases, restrictions can be so extensive joints become frozen, meaning joint motion is severely restricted. The goal of all myofascial therapies is to restore normal muscle function. Following are helpful hands-on therapies that work to release restrictions and help our body achieve full normal range of motion.


Myofascial pain syndrome  (MPS) is a constant pain source when trigger points (TrPs) are left untreated.

Trigger point therapy done by a specially trained therapist releases the knotted muscle fiber (TrP) using a compression technique. The therapist will know to look for other TrPs, which are sometimes well away from the one that is causing you so much pain. They know there is a consistent pattern related to the specific location of a TrP in that taut band of muscle. Release TrPs returns muscle to normal function.  That said, the work isn’t all up to the therapist. A good therapist will help you learn the importance of knowing what things are perpetuating your pain. A big one for me is sitting here at this desk staring at my computer screen, or riding in a car for too long.

Chronic myofascial pain from MPS is often accompanied by other disorders, such as fibromyalgia, migraine, spinal degeneration, irritable bladder, arthritis, joint hypermobility, and more. Dr. Karl Hurst-Wicker explains “Fibromyalgia Centralization and Peripheral Myofascial Pain” in an interview I did for Health Central.

Created by Celeste Cooper, The Pained Ink Slayer(c)

Chronic myofascial pain can be the primary source of pain or it can perpetuate pain in other disorders, injuries, or anatomical deformities. The good news is that myofascial pain syndrome is treatable. The goal is to release the trigger point/s so that the muscle tissue returns to its normal functioning position.


As so many of us who write about myofascial pain explain, the myofascia is like chicken skin. It’s attached to the muscle, but still moves freely. If you have ever cut up a chicken, you can visualize what that is. Each muscle is covered by myofascia (muscle covering) that draws together on each end to form a tendon. Tendons attach muscle to bone so our joints can function. The goal of myofascial release is to free up myofascial restrictions so our body can function properly.

Developed by physical therapist John F. Barnes, myofascial release is a manual therapy performed by a skilled therapist with the goal of improving movement and promoting wellness.

My personal experience with MFR was enlightening to the physical therapy student following my therapist. During a session, my back starting twitching like a flickering light bulb, the student became tongue-tied. She stated she had not witnessed such a phenomenon. The physical therapist was glad her student was able to see firsthand what restricted myofascia can do and how it contributes to chronic pain.

It’s important to always check the credentials of anyone doing body work. They must have a firm understanding of anatomy of physiology. Here is a directory of myofascial release therapists recommended by John Barnes.


The goal of Neuromuscular Therapy and Reprogramming (NMR), founded by body-worker Jocelyn Olivier, is to balance the central nervous system and the musculoskeletal system by engaging the motor center of the brain.  Therapists specifically trained in NMR treat soft-tissue restrictions, which relaxes muscles, rebuilds strength, improves flexibility, restores venous and lymph flow, and relieves the underlying cause of pain. The therapist will assess blood flow, myofascial TrPs, nerve compression, problems with gait, posture and body alignment, and perpetuating factors.

Other types of bodywork include spray and stretch, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy, strain counter-strain technique, and deep tissue bodywork, such as Rolfing and Active Release Technique (ART). I caution those with fibromyalgia on deep tissue work. It can be too painful for some. I am lucky to have a physical therapist that does ART. Some chiropractors also use this technique, but the most important thing is to have a working relationship with your therapist and keep the lines of communication open.  


Any myofascial therapy requires us to contribute for the best outcome. We can identify perpetuating factors and practice preventive strategies like stretching and strengthening to maintain muscle health, stamina, and general overall wellness. (Caution: strengthening should be done once the muscle is functioning properly again.) We can be persistent in finding the right therapy or the right therapist. Both are equally important. Maybe you find a therapy you want to try, insurance covers it and all seems well. However, I offer a word of prudence, the type of therapy doesn’t matter if you don’t have a knowledgeable therapist who is willing to work with you and teach you why certain things are important.

A guidebook that focuses on the work of doctors Travell and Simons will help you learn methods of self-treatment and a good therapist will suggest that you do just that. There is information to suggest that when home therapy is encouraged, we do better.


Always talk with your doctor for medical clearance. Sports medicine physicians and physical therapists are often a good resource for those of us living with chronic myofascial pain.

Additional Reading:

In healing,

Celeste Cooper, RN / Author, Freelancer, Advocate

Think adversity?-See opportunity!

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