John F. Barnes and Myofascial Release Therapy

JS writes: “What are your views on myofascial release therapy and John Barnes, who has several sites promoting this therapy?”

Myofascial release therapy is not New Age. It is considered to be a manual therapy technique often used in massage which focuses on the myofascial tissue, the tough membranes that wrap around, support and connect muscles.

“During myofascial release (MFR) therapy, the therapist locates myofascial areas that feel stiff and fixed instead of elastic and movable under light manual pressure,” writes Dr. Brent A. Bauer for the Mayo Clinic. “These areas, though not always near what feels like the source of pain, are thought to restrict muscle and joint movements, contributing to widespread muscle pain. The focused manual pressure and stretching used in myofascial release therapy loosen up restricted movement, leading indirectly to reduced pain.”

However, studies have not found MFR therapy to work any better than massage, chiropractic manipulation and/or other manual therapies. As Dr. Bauer states, few studies have tested MFR specifically because the exact elements of MFR vary from therapist to therapist.

This may be where the problem is concerning John F. Barnes, a physical therapist whose style has been criticized by some as being “cult-like” and based on erroneous ideas. But Barnes likes to sue anyone who criticizes him so you’ll have a hard time tracking down any specific allegations. However, you’ll get a good idea of the accusations floating around about him by this post, supposedly made by his attorneys, on a physical therapy rehab forum. The comments to the post are particularly interesting to read.

I’m not sure what the problem is with Mr. Barnes, but the peripheral “chatter” on the web about him is not encouraging.

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