Misconceptions about John F. Barnes Myofascial Release

Some people have heard things about Myofascial Release from friends, family and other healthcare professionals.  Sometimes the information is accurate and sometimes not.  


Because there are other forms of Myofascial Release out there.  Also sometimes the word Myofascial Release is used interchangeably with deep tissue massage which is actually inaccurate.

I practice the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release approach.  It is a complete system of viewing, assessing and treating a person.   Comparing Barnes Myofascial Release to other Myofascial Release is like comparing apples to oranges. They are just so different they shouldn’t really have the same name.  There is nothing wrong with other forms of therapy out there, I just want to clear some confusion.  Over the years I have occasionally gotten questions like:


I heard Myofascial Release hurts….is it really deep?


You use lotion right?


I had Myofascial Release before and it only lasted a couple minutes and then it was done. Is that what you do?


I got Myofascial Release before but I was underneath a cover, like getting a regular massage, and I was undressed. How come I need shorts?


Let’s start with what the word Myofascial Release means:

MYO– means muscle

FASCIA–  a 3-dimensional web throughout the whole body.

RELEASE– the tight, restricted, knotted, bound down tissue (Myofascial Tissue) is released, unglued, and more fluid so you can function again without pain and limited motion.  

The word myofascial release is somewhat of a generic term, yet John Barnes Myofascial Release is not generic at all!

Many other forms of Myofascial Release and massage are based on the muscular system only.

John F. Barnes Myofascial Release is based on the fascial system.


 Our muscles are composed of approximately 80% fascia.  However, fascia also extends beyond the muscles throughout the whole entire body.  It is a complete 3-dimensional interconnected web from head to toe without interruption.  

Muscles start and end at certain points in the body but the fascia continues. So Barnes Myofascial Release approach isn’t looking at specific muscles to treat.  It is looking at the “big picture”, to see where the fascial web is tight and restricted in the body.  I don’t work in the direction of the muscles fibers necessarily.   I treat where the body is tight  fascially which continues, changes and moves through the origin and insertions of muscles.  

Ultimately treating the body as a whole addresses the symptoms extremely effectively for long lasting results


I heard Myofascial Release hurts….is it really deep?

The pressure of Barnes Myofascial Release is adjusted to the person being treated. Also, one area of a person’s body might need different pressure than another area.  It is not a protocol or standard. It is done with conscious touch by the therapist who is aware of how the client’s body is responding to the pressure. It is obvious when too much pressure is applied to the person because the person’s body shuts down.  Once it shuts down, release can’t really occur so it’s pointless to force.

I have heard many times that even though an area I am working on is tender, slightly painful, or sore, it feels good.  It feels like it is the right pressure instead of the wrong pressure that feels invasive.  

There is a difference between therapeutic pain and pain that feels injurious.  A person’s experience of sensations during treatment can be subtle or moderate, yet they are not bracing against the pressure. Usually if you are bracing or fighting the pressure of any person’s touch, it means it’s too much pressure for you.

Also it’s about communication between client and therapist.  I encourage each client to tell me if a pressure feels “too much” so I can ease up.  Sometimes the pressure is extremely light, sometimes deep. All unique to the person on the table.  


You use lotion right?

No. I need to be directly on your skin without sliding, and any lotion interferes with that, even if it was applied hours ago.  I want to engage into the underlying fascia, not just slide over the skin.  


I had Myofascial Release therapy before and it only lasted a couple minutes and then it was done. Is that what you do?

No. I typically treat people for an hour and occasionally a half hour.

During treatment once I place my hands in an area and start a technique, fascia takes 2 minutes to just begin to release. Then once it begins I want to allow it to continue to release for a few more minutes. That’s why I spend a minimum of 5 minutes in an area. Just remember that since fascia is a continuous web, treating one area treats the whole. Many times clients will feel sensations in other areas of their body while I’m treating one area because of the fascia web.  


I got Myofascial Release before but I was underneath a cover, like getting a regular massage, and I was undressed. How come I need shorts?

Being in shorts and for women also a sports bra, tank or two piece bathing suit, allows for treatment to be easier.  I need to take a look at you standing so I can see where your body is being pulled out of natural alignment  or off center from tightness. If you are fully dressed, it is impossible to get an accurate view of what’s going on.  Being completely naked is obviously not appropriate either.


Also sometimes treatment requires adjusting into positions like side lying and seated along with lying face-up and face-down, so being “comfortably undressed”, yet covered in shorts and top makes this much easier.  It does not interfere with treatment at all in fact it helps the treatment to move along more fluidly.  

John F. Barnes founded the Myofascial Release approach more than 40 years ago.  It is a complete system of viewing, assessing and treating a person.  John founded his techniques from treating his own pain. He had some major injuries in his earlier years and was in excruciating pain.  Nothing was really working for him.  He began to intuitively place his hands on the areas of his body that were in pain, gently pressing and sustaining pressure. He noticed that it was helping.  Eventually he tried this on his patients, developed techniques over time, taught the therapists that worked for him, then started teaching seminars. Now he continues to teach sold out seminars all over the country and has two treatment centers, one in Malvern, PA and the other in Sedona, AZ.  He is a revolutionary in healthcare and an absolute “real deal” person with a calm, centered and powerful presence.  I have had the honor to not just learn from him but to assist him at his seminars as an Instructor.  


His website is: Myofascialrelease.com which has information and articles. 

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Vanessa Uybarreta

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