WHAT IS MYOTHERAPY?
So what is Myotherapy anyway?
Here’s the short version. “Myo” means muscle, so a Myotherapist is a muscle specialist.
Muscles are our bag. They’re our thing. They’re what we know and love and study and nerd out on.
So if ever your muscle is in pain or injured, a Myotherapist is a great person to seek out.
Although we’re super into muscles we also treat other conditions that may seem like they’ve got nothing to do with muscles.
Like sprained ankles (ligaments, tendons), disc injuries (padding between the vertebrae), numbness and tingling (impinged nerves) and bursitis (inflamed fluid filled sack within a joint) just to name a few.
Why? Well, because muscles are either connected to or have the ability to influence tendons, ligaments, vertebral discs, nerves, bursas and joints. If we work on a muscle we can’t help but impact the surrounding structures.
HOW DOES A MYOTHERAPIST “TREAT” A MUSCLE?
We generally take them out on the town, candlelit dinner, roses, that sort of thing.*
We’ll also use a combination of Deep Tissue Massage, Dry Needling, Trigger Point Therapy, Myofascial Cupping & Corrective exercise.
And to be honest, there’s a hell of a lot of other techniques and skills that an experienced Myotherapist will bring to the table because you can’t help but up skill in each year of practise. But let’s keep this blog post simple and to the core fundamentals.
*We don’t really take muscles out on dates.
DEEP TISSUE MASSAGE
When I was a young Myotherapist and a client referred to me as “their massage therapist” I quickly corrected them.
OMG I didn’t study for 3 years JUST to be referred to as a massage therapist!
They must KNOW how learned I am! How much evidence based theoretical journals that I have read.
How I say “lateral” instead of “on the outside of”.
What a dick.
But what I soon realised was that clients don’t give a shit about your title. They just want you to fix their pain.
They’re not intending to down grade your profession, they just don’t know any better.
And at the end of the day, in their head you are giving them a massage. You’re doing some other weird stuff too but massage is at least one technique that seems familiar and that they can label.
And really, my reaction was about my insecurities. It shouldn’t matter what other people think I am, the only thing that should matter is whether I can get that client out of pain or not.
Anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying, Myotherapists will massage you. They may call it myofascial release, soft tissue release, deep tissue release or trigger point therapy but really, it’s a bloody massage.
It’ll be a damn good one, one where they know what they’re doing, where there’s strategy and a method behind it but all you really need to know is that Myotherapists massage people.
And you should know this because massage feels really, really good! But when it’s done well, it’s mind-blowingly life-changingly awesome. I’m not exaggerating.
One time I treated a tradie in his late 40s. He’d been suffering from back pain for 15 years. 15 years! It was a constant ache day and night. He was on my table for about 45 minutes, I did some deep release work (deep, sustained, focused massage) through the muscles in his back (iliocostalis) and when he got off the table he couldn’t believe it.
The pain was gone. After 15 years gone. Now I’m no magician, I’m not a guru. But I know how to give a damn good massage. More importantly, I know how effective good massage technique is.
This guy’s back wasn’t fixed I should add. I’d taken his symptoms away with some Myotherapy techniques.
He needed to be taken through a course of strengthening so the pain would never come back and he’d be safeguarded from future injury.
But we’d broken the pain pattern and that was the key. Because …
1) Now he believed in me &
2) Now that he was pain-free he trusted me that it was ok to get into the gym and start our strength work.
This all became possible because I gave a good “massage”.
Hell! With that outcome you can call me whatever you like!
As well as massage we will also use dry needling.
Dry needling is simply the act of inserting a tiny, acupuncture needle into the centre of a “Trigger Point” (a painful site in the muscle).
When performed with accuracy this technique deactivates the Trigger Point which significantly reduces - or nullifies completely - the pain response in the muscle.
Are like the holy grail for us Myotherapists. If we can deactivate a Trigger Point we can swiftly break the back of a pain pattern.
Below is an excellent example of a Trigger Point in action taken from Travell and Simons “Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction” book (aka the Myotherapy bible).
This image shows how you may be suffering from a deep ache in your hamstring or glute or even ankle pain when in fact, the culprit of your pain is sitting much higher in the muscle of the hip (where the X’s are).
A good Myotherapist will have a well developed memory for each Trigger Point location in each muscle. Plus, an ability not to get led up the garden path following pain referral patterns rather than honing in on the Trigger Point itself.
Every muscle in the body has Trigger Points, it’s just whether they’re active or not. When they’re active they can be completely debilitating. Causing you sharp searing pains during movement or a deep low and constant ache that keeps you up at night.
They can also cause numbness, tingling and inflexibility of the muscle.
But perhaps most importantly, active Trigger Points will cause weakness in a muscle.
This is HUGE.
Because you may be feeling that you are weak in certain muscles but the truth might be - the muscle has the strength - but the Trigger Point is inhibiting the muscle’s ability to contract effectively.
Trigger Points are basically like kryptonite to a muscle.
HOW DO YOU “DEACTIVATE” A TRIGGER POINT?
Like this …
You simply press on it for 30 seconds - 2 minutes to deactivate it.
By pressing on it - or by inserting a needle into the centre of it - you change its state and cause a chain reaction in the body where by the sacomeres (tiny sliding filaments within the fibres of the muscle that are responsible for muscle contraction) initiate a “twitch” response.
Or, an involuntary contraction-relaxation response.
This relaxation phase is the one we’re looking for, it resets the muscle back to its original, pain-free resting length.
It may sound complex but this process is quite innate.
It’s why you might start to rub the muscles in your neck when you’ve been sitting too long at the computer. Whether you know it or not, you’re unconsciously trying to deactivate a Trigger Point.
Is the act of creating suction to the skin and gently pulling the muscle and fascia up vertically.
A specialised plastic cup is placed over the muscle and a small hand pump is attached to the top of it which causes vacuum.
The skin is pulled up into the cup and lightly stretched vertically as a result.
This essentially is another method of myofascial release, but instead of stretching the skin by pressing down on it with our hands or knuckles, we’re stretching the skin by causing a vacuum and pulling it up.
Since the pressure is directed away from the tissue & takes pressure off the nociceptors (pain receptors) there’s a significant pain reduction felt by the client.
Remember those muscles that were inhibited by those nasty Trigger Points? Well once the Trigger Points are gone, it’s time to unleash your muscle’s power through some strength training.
When a Myotherapist has got you pain-free or relatively close to they will guide you through a set of corrective exercises to strengthen your weaknesses so your pain never comes back.
And a really, really good Myotherapist will watch you do them. Adjusting your position, reinforcing why the exercise is important and making sure your technique is on point.
When I set up my Myotherapy clinic it was important to have a gym space where we could have room enough for clients to do their corrective exercises on site with the practitioner.
Mainly because ( I thought ) clients would forget to do their corrective exercises on their own.
But what I’ve actually found is when they’re doing corrective exercises on their own they’re often unsure of the technique and they start second guessing themselves, sometimes they feel it’s too easy so they stop doing the exercise all together assuming they’re doing them incorrectly.
Corrective exercises are FUNDAMENTAL for lasting change.
And often, the subtler the exercise the more powerful it is.
But a client needs to do the exercise under a watchful and experienced eye. So they have the time to ask questions about the exercise as it comes up but also experience what it feels like when they’re doing the exercise correctly.
So that’s it. Now you know what a Myotherapist does. Well the core things anyway.
If you have any questions about Myotherapy or muscles or trigger points hit me up in the comments below! If it isn’t obvious, I’m kinda into the subject :-)