By Donna Gregory Burch.
Don’t tell my husband, but I am in love with a woman. Her name is Christine, and I just met her a few weeks ago, but she’s definitely changed my life for the better. Christine has the gift of gab. We love to talk about conspiracy theories and how the elites are destroying our planet. But what I love most about her is her hands. Her hands are magic! You see, Christine is my new myofascial release practitioner.
Right now, you’re probably wondering, “What the heck is myofascial release?” Well, it’s sort of like massage but not really. Myofascial release (MFR) is a form of bodywork developed by physical therapist John Barnes. It uses slow, gentle pressure to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and fascia. (Here’s a short three-minute video on myofascial release and how it can benefit fibromyalgia.)
According to fibromyalgia specialist and fellow fibro warrior Dr. Ginevra Liptan, at least two European studies (linked here and here) have found MFR to be effective at reducing fibromyalgia pain. MFR also is helpful for treating different kinds of back pain, bladder urgency/incontinence, migraines, osteoarthritis and other conditions.
I first learned about MFR last year when I read Dr. Liptan’s book, “The Fibro Manual.” She is a big fan of MFR and credits it with helping to manage her own chronic pain.
I had put MFR on my mental to-do list but was in no rush to try it because massage therapy is basically torture for me these days. I used to love massage, but since developing fibro and Lyme, it’s too painful even with a gentle massage therapist.
But I read this article about how Lyme bacteria like to hide in biofilms in the fascia. I started to put 2 + 2 together in my mind. If MFR breaks up and releases the fascia, then maybe it would help drive those Lyme bacteria out of their hiding places so they could be killed off by the antibiotics and herbs I’m using for treatment.
I scheduled my first full-body MFR session with Christine in late June. Because of my most recent experiences with massage, I was worried it would be painful and that I would end up in a flare afterwards. But the only time I felt pain during my session was when Christine pulled on my arms. Otherwise, it just basically felt like she was pressing and holding different areas of my body. As she was doing it, I wondered how in the world was this going to help anything. I figured I had just blown more money on yet another ineffective treatment.
But when I left Christine’s studio that day, I noticed I walked a little easier. My hips felt straighter. My neck felt looser. The pain that I always carry in my legs was definitely lighter. I just felt … better.
I went home and waited for the flare to start. I even took some ibuprofen in anticipation but it never came. For the next few days, I had less pain overall. I started to look forward to my next MFR session, which was scheduled in three weeks.
Then, the unexpected happened. I was sitting at my desk on July 3 when my lower back started to ache. As the day progressed, I realized I had a pinched nerve in my lower back, causing sciatic pain down my left leg. I did a few sciatica stretches, hoping that would fix the issue, but by the next day, I was basically confined to the bed or sofa. At times, I couldn’t even walk upright. I literally crawled up the stairs a couple of times because it was too painful to climb them normally. I’m used to the daily pain of fibromyalgia and Lyme, but this was pain at a whole new level. As the days passed, I was praying for my “normal” fibro/Lyme pain to return instead of the misery I was feeling.
I had a couple of chiropractic adjustments, but they gave minimal relief. I saw my general practitioner who prescribed a few days of prednisone and muscle relaxers. The drugs helped, but the pain returned whenever I stopped taking them.
A week after my symptoms started, I reached out to Christine in desperation to see if she could help. She worked on me for over an hour, pulling, pressing and digging her hands into my back, hip and buttocks. It hurt but in a good way. When I stood up from her massage table, I knew without a doubt that she had magic hands. I had four days of relief, and then the pain returned – it was nowhere as severe as it had been – but enough that I called Christine to ask if she could work her magic again.
I am able to sit here at my desk and write this article because of Christine and MFR. I am a convert, a true believer. Dr. Liptan was right … again. If you’ve got fibromyalgia or some other condition that causes chronic muscle pain, I would research MFR to see if it might be helpful. It’s definitely been a savior for me these past couple of weeks.
Now, it’s your turn: Have you tried myofascial release? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments below.
Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.