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While MRT forgoes the pampering of a classic rub down, coupling your treatment with therapeutic sculpting gels, essential oils and roll-on remedies keeps pain at bay.

Myofascial release therapy (MRT) is hands on bodywork without the fluff and pampering of a traditional massage—but with a real therapeutic kick. The benefits are deeper and more permanent than massage. Its special talent is that it eliminates pain and restores motion by releasing the tension in the fascia.

To understand what myofascial release is and why it works, you first have to understand fascia, a thin tissue that covers every muscle and every fiber within each muscle. All muscle stretching is actually stretching of the fascia and the muscle. In fact, fascia is involved in every motion you make.

Mesh-like fascia encases every part of your body—every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as all of your internal organs, including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. It is a seamless web that exists from head to toe without interruption, and acts like a second skin to support your shape and structure. Because of its importance, fascia is now the most-studied tissue in human movement science.

“It is only since the late 1990s and early 2000s that researchers really started to look at fascia and its role in the body,” explains Brian Wong (brianthemassageguy.com), licensed massage therapist and fascial stretch specialist. “Before then, most people just thought of fascia as a container that held the body together. In 1998, researcher Donald Ingber discovered that this seemingly uninteresting tissue actually houses receptors that sense movement, temperature, pressure, touch and more. This is showed that much of how the body moves, senses pain and communicates to other parts of the body all involves the fascia. From a therapeutic viewpoint, correctly treating fascia has the potential to help people with pain, improve their ability to move with better efficiency, breathe better, think clearer, run faster.”

Fascial restrictions are now believed to be the root cause of the most common aches and pains associated with aging and wear and tear. When a muscle is injured, the muscle fibers and the fascia that surrounds it become short and tight. This is uneven stress can be transmitted through the fascia to other parts of the body, causing pain in areas other than the injured muscle. Myofascial release treats these symptoms by stretching the fascia, releasing the uneven tightness.

Myofascial release is not massage. It is a technique to equalize muscle tension throughout the body. Unequal muscle tension can compress nerves and muscles causing pain. The goal of myofascial therapy is to stretch and loosen the fascia so that it, as well as the connecting muscles and joints, can move more freely.

The myofascial release technique begins with the physical therapist finding the area of tightness where a contraction of muscle fibers has occurred, called a trigger point. A light stretch is applied to the tight area. The physical therapist waits for the tissue to relax and then increases the stretch until the area is fully relaxed. Small areas of muscle are stretched at a time. Sometimes the therapist uses only two fingers to stretch a small part of a muscle.

“Fascia massage is typically characterized by slow movements, which use very little, if any, lotion or oil, as to create a little resistance to the tissue to drag it or ‘shear’ it from the other tissue around it,” Wong says.

“All massage techniques can be beneficial, however, MRT is by far the most effective therapy to help aid in the recovery from muscular adhesions or chronic muscle pain resulting from fascia that is restricting the muscles,” says Ron Lamarca (kaimukihealthandwellness.com), a licensed massage therapist specializing in myofascial release, sports massage and shiatsu. “Anyone with muscle pain or tightness can benefit from MRT, from athletes to seniors. It really restores mobility.”

According to Brett Griswold, master trainer and corrective exercise specialist at 24 Hour Fitness (24hour fitness.com) in Waikiki, “Myofascial Release is especially beneficial to people returning to fitness after taking time off, and those that have joint or muscle stiffness. this gives anyone, regardless of their age or joint health, the ability to stretch and correct muscular imbalances and biomechanical problems.” He adds, “To get the most from a myofascial therapy session, drink plenty of water to flush the toxins that were released, and rest after so your body can regenerate.”

Another option for fascial release is Fascial Stretch therapy (FST), an assisted stretching technique, performed by a certified fascial stretch therapist, that concentrates on the fascia—in order to open joints for increased mobility, the flexibility, performance and pain relief. It also promises to improve your posture, digestion and sleep.

“Fascial stretch therapy is pain-free, assisted stretching that affects not only one muscle or area, but the entire body,“ notes Abraham Corral, a principal massage therapist certified in Fascial Stretch therapy at the Spa at Trump (trumphotelcollection.com/waikiki) in Waikiki. “During a session, the therapist moves your body in undulating spiral, diagonal patterns called stretch waves to help stretch the fascia in and around the joint capsules. The therapy is interactive, as you synchronize your breathing with the stretch waves to achieve therapeutic results.”

Wong, who combines myofascial release and fascial stretch therapies in his treatments, adds, “Until the joint tissue is released, the likelihood is high that the muscles will tighten to protect the joints. By releasing the fascia in the joints, and then moving out towards the more super muscles and tissue, fascial stretching produces a therapeutic effect similar to myofascial release, but with less direct pressure, as well as the convenience of the therapy being done over the clothes without the use of oils or lotions.”