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Good Feeling – Myofascial Release

I’ve got a good feeling
Like I know how I’m feeling
Scraping me off the ceiling
Back to that good feeling…
Now I find it hard living
Wasting our time giving
When will we all give in
Into that good feeling?
Travis – Good Feeling – 1997Whizzing down the M1 first thing this morning I blasted out some favourite soft-rock to keep myself awake. I’m not usually seen alive before 10am on a weekend, but the delicious lure of learning and a long awaited course by John Annan had me yelling out late 90s tunes at 7.30am. I’ve always loved Travis, but driving home in a calmer manner 8 hours later, I realised the lyrics from one of their best songs had taken on a whole new meaning for me.

Myofascial release is a soft tissue technique unlike any other I’ve tried before. Rather than pushing muscles around, kneading knots and squeezing shoulders, ‘MFR’ is all about lengthening, elongating, letting go… giving in… and yes, it feels good. I can only describe it as a ‘laying on of hands’, which of course sounds rather biblical, something I’m not all that comfy with. However, as physical therapists, we are woefully remiss if we ignore the incredible finesse of our sense of touch: this technique requires us to re-focus on it… it demands I ‘know how I’m feeling’.

It takes a shift in perspective to get it, not least because for once the physiotherapist is not in control. We are led by you, the patient, by your range of movement, your levels of soft tissue tension. Rather than cheerfully marching you through a structured physical assessment and robust hands-on treatment in a predefined timescale, once the session starts, it’s your soft tissue, your fascia, that blocks, allows, and leads the therapy, guiding our hands by its own process of transformation.

Waiting is not my strong point (neither is being early – sorry John) but after just one day of a weekend’s course I understand the value of it in a whole new light. Too many days in recent weeks, too many sessions, have blistered past in an effort to pack more in, make more progress, ‘fix’ more people – I often make it ‘a hard living’ for myself. The initial ‘give’ of human tissue takes around 90 to 120 seconds once the hands have settled on the patient and both bodies have become quiet. For just that short time, to wait, to tune in, to feel… to doubt… and then to feel a change… it is almost a meditation, and those seconds can stretch out and ease just like the soft tissues beneath your hands. It can be a very zen experience, resulting in both physical and emotional release in some. It is also a timely reminder to me that a frazzled, rushing physio who needs to be ‘scraped off the ceiling’ will not be able to do her best for the patients: if I’m not careful I may literally be ‘wasting my time giving’.

All of us have tightnesses, restrictions, a ‘bad’ side. These are often caused by, amongst other things, poor posture, in turn sometimes caused by negative or sad feelings. Fran Healy sings of letting go of the past, embracing the release from old emotional restrictions in his life. Whatever the cause, soft tissue restriction can wreak havoc across your body in disrupted movement patterns, strains, aches and chronic pain. MFR can ease these out, with significant changes felt and seen in the first session. So, when will we all give in, into that good feeling? I can’t wait to get started.