Myofascial Release refers to a collection of techniques for separating layers of fascia, releasing restrictions and restoring elasticity and hydration. Restricted fascia will often lead to undiagnosed pain, exhaustion and immune system dysfunctions.
Specific releases for different parts of the body vary, but generally include gentle application of pressure or sustained low load stretch to the affected area.
- Soft Tissue Mobilization – to separate cross links, lengthen tissue and elasticize.
- Cross Hands – cross hands and sink in, follow the tissues as your hands move away from each other. Think about tissue play.
- Compression – sink into the tissue and press hands towards each other. Hold gently as tissue loosens and resets it’s own tension.
- Direct Pressure – sink palm or point into the tissue for 90-120 seconds and hold. Tissue should soften and allow you to enter, no forcing. Used in trigger point release. Trigger point therapy should be accompanied by myofascial release – if the area around the trigger point has not been released, the trigger point is likely to return.
- Facilitation of Energy – hold hands on either side of a structure and “facilitate energy”. I prefer to think of this as a grounded, re-balancing of the tension of a structure. Understanding the anatomy under your hands is crucial here, if you want to be effective.
- Traction/Distraction – take a part of the horse away from them, hold and then slowly release back to the body. Example; tail pull. Think slow and smooth, stay inside protective resistance.
- Scar Release – gently enter the area, move the tissue clockwise and hold. Mobilizing, breaks up cross links and stretches the tissue. Some consider it most effective during the healing period.
- Rebounding – a rocking motion to enhance fluid flow, relax myofascia, calm the nervous system, open joints and help the body center.
- Vibrations – a trembling movement performed with hands or fingers, used to stimulate soft tissues and nerves and relieve myofacial tension.
- Skin lifting or rolling – skin is lifted and/or gently rolled to separate the skin from any muscles it may be stuck to. Can stimulate the release of endorphins.
- Focused and 3-dimensional stretches – to lengthen fibers, maintain or improve range of motion in muscles and soft tissue. Forget the word “stretch” – ask and allow the horse relax and lengthen into a certain shape or direction. Think of the horse as “breathing into” the release.
- Unwinding – as fascia and muscles release the body may ‘unwind’ in what seem like spontaneous movements. Follow and support the release as needed.
- Positioning – to facilitate the work.
Done well, myofascial therapy can help a horse use it’s body more correctly and efficiently and improve performance and career longevity
* A good warm-up massage will facilitate myofascial work.
* After a massage/myofascial release session, your horse will benefit from exercises that promote biomechanical balance and more correct muscle development.