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What are Myofascial Release Techniques (MRT)

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What are Myofascial Release Techniques (MRT)?

Myofascial Release Techniques (MRT) is a broad category of manual therapy (hands-on) techniques that aim to correct neuromuscular dysfunction.  There are many patented treatment techniques that fall into this category.  It is very possible that your physiotherapist performs a technique nearly identical to the patented technique.  Individuals who perform patented techniques take courses specific to the technique and usually have to pay an annual fee to be on a roster.  As long as they’re on the roster, they can declare that they perform whatever technique it is.

MRT is a staple treatment for many physiotherapists.  How it is performed is often dictated by training, body size (of patient and therapist), nature of injury, sensitivity level of treatment area and patient preference, among others.

As the name implies, the goal of treatment is to release tension produced from the muscles and connective tissues of the human body.  This is accomplished in a variety of ways:

  1. Mechanical pressure:  When applied appropriately mechanical pressure can desensitize tissues and promote circulation.  Both may result in the muscular tissue reducing in tone.
  2. Stretching:  This can be done passively or actively.  In either case, the physiotherapist may apply pressure to the tissues in a specific direction to cause on isolated stretch when the joint is moved through range of motion.
  3. Through proprioceptors (clinically referred to as “Muscle Energy Techniques” (MET)):  This strategy alone has many variations.  In general, this is done through the body’s own reflexes by asking patients to simply contract and then relax.  The contraction of the muscle is often against a force applied by the therapist.  During the relaxation component the therapist may ask the patient to focus on relaxing or they may take the muscle further into range of motion.  Depending on how the therapist chooses to perform the treatment they will be using different types of reflexes which innately impact the length and tone of your muscles.
  4. Position:  This method involves specific positioning of the muscle to facilitate the “unwinding” of muscle fibres.  When the muscle is placed in an ideal position, neurological input may also change allowing trigger points to release the muscle to relax.  Therapists using this technique may use mechanical pressure in combination for greater effect.

There are many other strategies and physiological principles guiding MRT.  The list above is not meant to be comprehensive as there are books dedicated to individual treatment techniques.

Many patients report improvements in pain, range of motion and function very quickly after an MRT treatment.  After an MRT treatment the muscle should be functioning more optimally.  Your therapist will probably recommend exercise in combination with MRT for better effect.  MRT effects can be maintained or improved upon in combination with exercise.

Like most treatments, patient response depends on a number of variables.  There are also side effects that should be discussed with your therapist prior to treatment.

Please note

This article is not intended to be a literature review.  While some literature may be cited in some cases, this article should not be used as scientific-evidence of a treatment or service.  Please contact your physiotherapist or other appropriate health care provider to better understand the scientific literature supporting or refuting the use of a particular treatment.

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