About John F. Barnes Myofascial Release©

John F. Barnes Myofascial Release © is the ultimate approach to healing, taught by John F. Barnes for 50 years to over 100,000 therapists worldwide. The approach encompasses a gentle, hands on therapy utilizing three components: myofascial release, unwinding and rebounding, combined with verbal dialogue, to release the fascial straightjacket of pressure that perpetuates most physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. Once released, the person can then more easily return to their natural, relaxed and alert state. No other approach to healing reaches as far and with such compassion into the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual realms of the human being.

What is Fascia?

Fascia is a tough connective tissue that spreads throughout our bodies in a three-dimensional web from your head to your feet without interruption. It infuses and surrounds every muscle fiber, nerve, bone, vessel and organ down to the cellular level. Fascia acts as a protective material for our body. In the normal healthy state, the fascia is relaxed and wavy. It has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. When we experience trauma, inflammation, surgery or do repetitive activities, the fascia will tighten to protect surrounding structures from further injury. This trauma or inflammation can create restrictions of the fascia resulting in excessive pressure (up to 2,000 lbs. per square inch) on nerves, muscles, blood vessels, bones, joints and/or organs. This enormous pressure acts like a straightjacket, producing symptoms of pain, restriction of motion and dysfunction of any and all systems of the body.

Here is a great video explanation of myofascial release from Richard Harty, PT here.

Myofascial restrictions do not show up in X-rays, MRI’s, myelograms, CAT scans or electromyography; therefore, myofascial problems are often missed and/or misdiagnosed.

The following is a partial list of diagnoses that are treatable with myofascial release:

  • Allergies
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Disc/spinal injury
  • Dizziness
  • Elimination problems
  • Emotional trauma
  • Fibromyalgia (fibro – another name for fascia)
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Menstrual problems, endometriosis, infertility
  • Nerve entrapment/numbness/tingling/muscle weakness
  • Post traumatic stress
  • Pre/Post pregnancy
  • Restless leg
  • Spasms, tremors
  • Strains, sprains
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Sports injury
  • Pre/post surgery
  • TMJ Syndrome
  • Whiplash

Myofascial release can help with a wide range of symptoms due to the fact that fascia is infused into every structure in the body. Fascial tightening can lead to bizarre and seemingly unrelated symptoms.

Limitations in Current Treatment Modalities

The myofascial perspective is that symptoms are only the tip of the iceberg. Many therapies are limited in that they treat your symptoms; they do not address the myofascial restrictions that cause and perpetuate these symptoms. If other therapies are not as effective as you would hope, it could be that there is a fascial component that requires treatment.

From a Physiological Point of View

Fascia is composed of approximately 20% elastic fibers and 80% collagen fibers. Other therapeutic modalities address the elastic component of fascia. They do not address the collagen component. Therefore, 80% of the problem is not being addressed! In Myofascial Release, therapists feel for the restrictions and then apply gentle, but sustained pressure at the initial barrier of the restriction. At first, the elastic component of the fascia will release, allowing the collagenous barrier to be engaged. This barrier cannot be forced. The therapist applies gentle pressure; as the collagenous aspect releases, the therapist follows the motion of the tissue, barrier upon barrier, until the tissue is released. This time factor is essential for lasting results. Since fascia is designed to protect us against sudden impact and movements that could damage our internal structures (think of how you brace before impact in a fall), it needs to be engaged slowly in order to reverse its protective tightening response. It requires a minimum of 1.5 – 2 minutes of sustained pressure at (not beyond) the fascial barrier, before a fascial restriction will begin to release. Therapists must be aware of the subtle difference between restriction and bracing in order to effectively release a fascial restriction without creating additional bracing patterns.

From a Freedom of Movement Point of View

Something John Barnes discovered when treating his patients was that they had something he called “position dependent memory”. When something significant enough occurred in the patient's life that it caused their fascial system to tighten down, he found that their body would re-tighten when they reached that position in space again in treatment. He found that, by taking gravity out of that part of the body by supporting it for them, their bodies would “unwind” naturally to this position of past trauma. This unloading of the fascia allowed the body’s righting reflexes and protective responses to be temporarily suspended, thus allowing awareness to be brought to the area. Tissue memory released and, along with that, accumulated bracing patterns. Fluid movement was restored.

There are other therapies that employ movement in their treatment, however, only myofascial release allows the body to go into these points in space on their own – without leading or forcing – thus disengaging the bracing pattern from its source – the original traumatic positional memory.  Only myofascial release allows the person to access the physical and emotional sensations while in these braced positions in space that prevent authentic and permanent resolution of symptoms.

From a Mindbody Point of View

There is a direction connection between what you are thinking, what you are feeling physically and emotionally - and the condition of your fascia. Restrictions/stuckness in thinking equals restriction/stuckness in the fascia. Suppressed emotions equals tightening down of fascia to comply with suppression. Physical pain and restricted motion equals bracing/tightening of the fascia. The fascia does not know the difference between a thought block, emotional block or physical block. The idea that they are separate things is just that – an idea people made up. It's not what we actually experience.

When we are injured physically, there is always an associated emotion and thought connected to it. If any one of these is not fully processed and resolved at the time of injury, the fascia will continue to restrict and store this unresolved aspect until we are ready to resolve it. Our bodies are like tape recorders for unresolved issues. They remember and store everything that ever happened and was not fully resolved. Long after the injury is healed, symptoms in the same or new areas of the body can appear weeks, months, or decades later because part of the body, emotion or thought was not resolved. Our fascial systems wait for resolution. Sometimes they send us uncomfortable signals of pain and discomfort that eventually we cannot ignore. That is usually when we seek relief.

Unfortunately, many of the ways we seek relief are only temporary, or they run their course, lose their effectiveness, leaving us back with the initial symptoms. Some temporary coping mechanisms can be (but are not always): medications, food, drugs, alcohol, exercise, keeping busy physically and mentally.

Treating the Whole Person

Effective treatment of symptoms cannot be effective unless we treat the entire person. You are not required to believe any of the concepts that have been mentioned above. All that is needed in treatment is to just be open to the possibility of change in all aspects of your being.  Whether you believe any of these concepts or feel their effects is not crucial. Myofascial release, by default, treats the whole person that is you. Myofascial Release approaches and works with you as you are at that moment. In this way, there is no forcing, no judgment and no expectation placed on you.

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Chatham Office:
Heather Cornell, RMT, 137 King Street West, Chatham   •  Tel: 519-397-9222   •   e-mail: quantumhealing@me.com