Healing from Chronic Myofascial Pain—Support for Chronic Pain Sufferers


This content is not intended as and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. (See full Disclaimer.)

Treatments: Physical therapy (PT)

Described below is one of the many approaches I've tried or considered trying for healing my chronic myofascial pain:

John F. Barnes myofascial release (JFB-MFR) mind-body physical therapy (PT)

BOTTOM LINE: Very effective.

John F. Barnes myofascial release(JFB-MFR) is a whole-body approach to MFR physical therapy (PT). Note that many JFB-MFR trained therapists are licensed physical therapists, but there are also highly skilled therapists trained in JFB-MFR who are licensed massage therapists. In my experience, medical insurance only covers this treatment when performed by licensed physical therapists (and even then sometimes with a fight for coverage).

Through this bodywork, therapists use their hands to apply light pressure to your muscles to help you release restricted fascial tissue in your body. This method also can help release subconscious, habitual bracing patterns and muscle tension that are influenced by emotions. More details are available at www.myofascialrelease.com and in John F. Barnes’ book Healing Ancient Wounds.

In 2007, two years after I initially ruptured the disc in my neck and had already tried several traditional treatments for my chronic pain, I began this treatment. At first, my JFB-MFR therapist worked on structurally releasing the tight tissue throughout my body (concentrating around my neck and upper back, but also working my entire body). After about four months of twice-a-week treatments, I had dramatic improvement in my range of motion and modest reduction in my pain. However, I'd hit a plateau.

Next I attended a JFB-MFR two-week intensive consisting of three treatments each day, delivered by multiple therapists. During that intensive, as therapists repeatedly applied pressure to the restricted fascial tissue surrounding my muscles, I could feel my body become dramatically more fluid and mobile. Through this bodywork, I also began to understand how my subconscious bracing patterns and beliefs were helping perpetuate tension in my body's fascia and muscles. 

Thoughts and beliefs that were once buried in my subconscious rose to my consciousness. As the collagenous material in my stuck fascia was breaking down under the light pressure of the therapist's hands, memories and thoughts would come to my mind. I began to feel first hand that many of these bracing patterns were based on past trauma and subconscious beliefs

Yes, believe me, it all seemed pretty wacky at the time. But when memories and related negative thoughts surfaced, and my pain began to truly lift—and remain that way—I finally realized the true power of my subconscious mind and its ability to affect my physical well being.

After my first JFB-MFR intensive, my pain fell dramatically. I went from wanting to be dead to having hope. That was when my life turned around. Risking hyperbole, it saved my life.

I was shocked to learn that the body is directly affected by the mind. I certainly wished there were a simple pill, crutch, or brace to heal me, but I finally had to face the reality that there was more going on inside me than I ever knew.

Even though I'd made such great progress after my JFB-MFR intensive, I still had layers of pain to shed, so I've continued receiving this treatment over the years. Since I started JFB-MFR in 2007 (and through 2016), I have been to 281 sessions (but who’s counting?). I've gone twice a week for months. I've attended three different two-week intensives of three sessions per day. I've gone once a month for months. I've also taken time off between treatments, ranging from months to over a year off, while sometimes trying other things.

JFB-MFR continues to help me process my trauma-linked physical pain and it curbs my pain when it flares up. It still is very helpful in allowing my body to process past and current trauma. In fact, I went for treatment a few days after a trip to the emergency room in 2016 for a kidney stone. My body was holding tension from that trauma and affecting my myofascial pain levels. The JFB-MFR helped me release much of that tension and reduce my spiked-up myofascial pain.