Injury type: Acute

Category: Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Rating: No research

What is it?

Myofascial release is a hands-on treatment technique that provides sustained pressure into areas where there are myofascial restrictions. This is considered to be part of a general manual massage technique whereby the fascia (structure located between skin and muscles and bones) are stretched. The goal of this treatment is to eliminate pain, increase range of movement and generally balance the human body.

How does it work?

Fascia is a seamless web of connective tissue that covers and connects muscles, organs and skeletal tissue all over the body. Injuries, such as whiplash, may cause restriction to the fascia. As fascias are interconnected, restriction and tightness at one place can result in trouble spots in other places of the body. Myofascial release is purported to work on the premise of identifying areas of tightness and restriction, release the fascia and restore health and vitality to the tissue.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to myofasical release treatment method. The direct method involves practitioners initially working on the areas of restriction using direct local pressure followed by stretching of the fascia. This method relies on stretching and loosening tight fascia. The indirect method involves gentle stretch, light pressure and holding the pressure and letting the restricted fascia unwind by itself. Indirect myofasical release relies on generating heat in the local tissues which results in increased local blood flow. This promotes local healing, thereby eliminating pain and restoring optimum body function.

Is it effective?

There is currently no scientific evidence that myofascial release works for whiplash injuries. However, evidence from randomised controlled trials focusing on neck pain (excluding whiplash) demonstrates possible benefits associated with myofascial release. In one trial1, the effectiveness of myofascial release was compared with manual therapy for the management of occupational mechanical neck pain. This research reported a greater effect of myofascial release in improving the cervical range of motion and quality of life than manual therapy. Similarly, a more recent trial2 also showed a greater short-term improvement in pain and pressure pain threshold in patients received myofascial release, compared to those who were treated with a multimodal physical therapy approach (including ultrasound therapy, transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation and massage).

Are there any disadvantages?

As with any manual therapy treatments, there might be increased sensation which should gradually ease. The practitioner should initially undertake a thorough assessment and plan his/her treatment accordingly. During the treatment, the practitioner should continually check how you are feeling and monitor the intensity of any symptoms. His/her treatment should then be modified accordingly. Given the nature of the treatment, it is likely that a number of sessions will be necessary to achieve any outcomes. Therefore, financial costs should also be considered.

Where do you get it?

The Natural Therapy Pages has an extensive list of practitioners with their contact details. Alternatively, consulting the Yellow Pages should provide details of a practitioner in your local area.


Due to the absence of rigorous high-quality scientific evidence, myofascial release cannot be recommended for whiplash. More research is required before concrete recommendations can be made.