Effectiveness of myofascial release: systematic review of randomized controlled trials

J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2015 Jan;19(1):102-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2014.06.001. Epub 2014 Jun 13.


Introduction: Myofascial release (MFR) is a form of manual therapy that involves the application of a low load, long duration stretch to the myofascial complex, intended to restore optimal length, decrease pain, and improve function. Anecdotal evidence shows great promise for MFR as a treatment for various conditions. However, research to support the anecdotal evidence is lacking.

Objective: To critically analyze published randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to determine the effectiveness of MFR as a treatment option for different conditions.

Data sources: Electronic databases: MEDLINE, CINAHL, Academic Search Premier, Cochrane library, and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro), with key words myofascial release and myofascial release therapy. No date limitations were applied to the searches.

Study selection: Articles were selected based upon the use of the term myofascial release in the abstract or key words. The final selection was made by applying the inclusion and exclusion criteria to the full text. Studies were included if they were English-language, peer-reviewed RCTs on MFR for various conditions and pain.

Data extraction: Data collected were number of participants, condition being treated, treatment used, control group, outcome measures and results. Studies were analyzed using the PEDro scale and the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine's Levels of Evidence scale.

Conclusions: The literature regarding the effectiveness of MFR was mixed in both quality and results. Although the quality of the RCT studies varied greatly, the result of the studies was encouraging, particularly with the recently published studies. MFR is emerging as a strategy with a solid evidence base and tremendous potential. The studies in this review may help as a respectable base for the future trials.

Keywords: Myofascial release; Myofascial release therapy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Humans
  • Massage / methods
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Therapy, Soft Tissue / methods
  • Trigger Points / physiopathology*