Using myofascial release for fibromyalgia, Lyme and similar chronic pain conditions

This article on myofascial release for fibromyalgia, Lyme and similar chronic pain conditions was first published on NationalPainReport.com. It is being reprinted here with permission from the editor. This post contains an affiliate link.

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.

Using myofascial release for fibromyalgia, Lyme and similar chronic pain conditions | Fed Up with Fatigue

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.

Finding a local practitioner…

For those who are interested in trying myofascial release, please visit John Barnes’ find a practitioner page on his website. This is going to be the best place to find a local practitioner. From what I’ve learned, there are many massage therapists who claim to do myofascial release, but a true MFR practitioner has received special training in John Barnes’ techniques. Going to a massage therapist who learned a couple of MFR holds in massage school just isn’t the same thing and likely won’t produce the same results.

Now, it’s your turn: Have you tried myofascial release? I’d love to read about your experience in the comments below. 

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  1. My physical therapist did myofascial release therapy with me in the past. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, but it worked. I was able to walk several miles each day, have more energy, and experienced overall less pain after just a few sessions. It was a miracle for my body and I loved it!

    Thank you for the article! I am looking to see if there is someone in my area by using the link you provided.

    • Donna Gregory/FedUpwithFatigue.com says

      Hope you find someone! It really is fantastic for pain. Wish I could afford to do it more.

  2. Has anyone experienced major dizziness post my fascia release? I have scheduled another session to see if I can get rid of the vertigo.

    • Aroona Murphy says

      Hello …I’ve had no MFR experience but vertigo yes. ..my GP showed me exercises to do while sitting on the edge of my bed. He said vertigo is the crystals in your ears being misaligned (I didn’t know we had crystals in our ears! ) and the exercises basically knock them back into position. Just a suggestion for you to ask /research …it worked for me 🙂

    • I have. Following a treatment, I am so dizzy that I have to hold on to walls when walking. I am extremely sensitive, and even a very gentle treatment affects me. I can not drive after a treatment.

  3. i have been diagnosed with vasculitis in the early stages not sure yet which one it is, are there other fibro patients who also have vasculitis? I also have the stiff jaw which aches when i open my mouth too wide i thought it was from the tonsilitis i was diagnosed with, but that has all cleared up but stull the jaw close the the gland and ear still pains – Any solutions feedback?

  4. Phyllis Denison says

    This most definitely works. So does Cranial Sacral Release (massage) Back in 1999/2000 I slipped an fell from the step of our Freightliner hauler truck – we were RV’rs with a Fifth wheel I was learning to park – and landed hard on my butt. Having been diagnosed with Degenerative Disk Disease and having FMS I soon was in extreme pain. I went back to the pain specialist in Phoenix, had another full spine MRI and he referred me for PT. We went to Cottonwood, AZ as we were members of Western Horizons and Thousand Trails and so we could stay between the 2 of them The Physical Therapist, Diane Dustin, who is now head of the Rehab department of Verde Valley Medical Center, was then at the Cottonwood Medical Center, and she decided that I would do better with Cranial Sacral release instead of traditional PT. I did. I have no idea how or why it works but after 3 visits per week – back in the days when insurance did pay for it – for 3 months, my pain was virtually gone, I stood tall again and continued for several years that way. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a True practitioner of that modality in Tucson and today in addition to the FMS, my DDD was impacted by a Personal Trainer at LA Fitness here.

  5. I live in the UK and have been having myofascial treatment for the past 20 months. Ive found it the single most helpful thing for Fibro, though it took me some time to find a practitioner.

  6. Jean Price says

    There’s an old song about the leg bone being connected to the hip bone and the hip bone’s connected to the back bone…and it goes on to tell the whole body’s relationship part by part…to make up the unified, functional whole! Pain makes me think of this song…when I realize how connected every part really IS!! Because I think pain changes all of the ways our body parts parts relate and interact….from the tension and the guarding and the spasms and the alignment variations!! Often areas of muscles wiill do a job they’re really not designed to do…like when the area that should do the work is hurting and not working well, or the nerves and vessels that supply that area are inflamed or pinched! So I think myofascial releases can be a perfect way to restore some better “relationships”, so to speak…between all the various components for movement…and for pain relief….when all the parts aren’t working well together for various reasons. It’s a unique therapy, and I agree that it takes a specially trained person to perform it…to get the best results!

    Pain is such a protective mechanism, designed to tell us when something needs our attention. Yet when it persists, it can interfere with the normal workings of muscles in areas which are hurting. So, the releases help sort out and bring things back into balance! I’m sure this isn’t a scientific definition…it’s more just the way I felt after I have a treatment! And it does help some of my pain…for various lengths of time! If you haven’t tried it, it might be worth giving it a go!

  7. Karen J Yee says

    I had my first myofascial treatment yesterday. I slept all day today (partially because I was on the phone most of the night with my mom who had open-heart surgery today). My skin is painful to the touch. I think this will help ultimately, but it is still very painful right now. I was going to have it done every week, but I think it will be every 2 weeks.

  8. About a month ago I started doing TRE (Trauma/Tension Release Exercises). The woman who taught me how to do it said it’s a form of deep myofascial release. Its been a huge game changer mentally and for my fibro physically 🙂

  9. A book called Myofascial Stretching: a guide to self treatment by Stedronsky and Pardy has taught me how to do myofascial release on myself. It’s a great book and I hope you recommend it to other readers. Thanks for all your info!

  10. Jo Anne Wooldridge says

    It is difficult to find an actual myofascial practitioner. Do you know of any referral sites? AZ is backwards in their medical.


  1. […] Myofascial release gift certificate – Dr. Ginevra Liptan, a fibro specialist who also has fibromyalgia herself, is a big fan of myofascial release for reducing fibromyalgia pain. I’m a fan, too, after it helped me overcome an extremely painful herniated disc in my back. […]

  2. […] far, I’ve been doing the following to try to loosen up the muscles/fascia: massage therapy, myofascial release, chiropractic. dry needling, active release technique, tennis balls (to release tight spots), foam […]

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