Myofascial release for PTSD, anxiety and depression

Each myofascial release session is an exploration into the body-mind complex.

by Maria Troia — 

The John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release (MFR) relies upon the notion of tissue memory. The fascia experiences and records stress and trauma over the course of a lifetime, often not becoming a problem for the individual until a critical mass is reached.

Barnes describes this effect as “splat art.” It is not one event that creates the dysfunction, but a series of events. Layers and layers of restriction form slowly over time, and when the body/mind reaches a certain point, physical or emotional symptoms occur. And at the root of every physical complaint is almost always an emotional memory.

Allopathic medicine gets it wrong when it seeks to separate body and mind. The problem, however, is that these aspects of the human experience cannot be separated.

Core releases and the chakras — MFR begins with core releases, essentially opening the chakras that run along the core of the body. Restrictions at each chakra level can tell us different things about the emotions that might be involved. Pelvic restrictions might involve a root chakra imbalance, with emotions related to basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Also at this level is the sacral chakra, associated with creativity and sexuality. Those whose creative gifts have been denied over a long period of time might hold tension at this level. Sexual abuse survivors often have restriction at this level.

Additionally, we often see a structural connection between the pelvis and the jaw as the position of one structure automatically affects the other in the body’s attempt to create balance. Interestingly though, there is also an energetic connection between the throat chakra — the level at which we express our creativity — and the sacral chakras, where we grow and house our creativity. The physical anatomy reflects the energy anatomy and vice versa.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — We often see people with PTSD who have deep-set restrictions in the pelvis, and the throat and jaw, as well. The iliopsoas muscle is our fight/flight muscle and is sometimes called the “leap muscle.” It originates on the lumbar spine and lumbar discs, and attaches at the inside of the thigh bone. Its major action is to flex the hip, which allows us to run when we perceive danger. Those with PTSD often have a very tight iliopsoas. If the muscle imbalance goes on long enough, the individual might also present with back and hip pain.

It is also not uncommon for these people to have associated neck or shoulder problems or TMJ. Few PTSD patients associate this, but once the restrictions at these levels are released, emotional memory may also be released, giving both structure and emotions the chance to heal.

 Anxiety — Anxiety often manifests in either the root or sacral chakras, but mostly in the heart chakra. The pelvic rotation seems to create a concavity in the chest, cutting off the heart energy. Often this creates a feeling of being unable to catch the breath. Interestingly, there is also a connection in Chinese medicine between the Heart and Kidney qi (which are housed in the pelvis). The Kidney also “grasps the qi” and allows one to catch a full breath. The Kidney is associated with the emotion of fear and so is integrally involved in treating anxiety.

 Depression — Depression can be more varied from a fascial perspective. Most often though, depression seems to correlate mostly to the heart chakra. However, it can have fascial lines pulling into the pelvis, solar plexus or throat, thus energetic connections to the heart can be found in the first, second, third or even fifth chakras.

Each MFR session is an exploration into the body-mind complex. Tissue memory is far-reaching, and some believe it can even connect to past-life memory. Whatever the source of the physical or emotional pain, MFR gives the body and mind an opportunity to reconnect, integrate and authentically heal.


Maria Troia, MSEd, LMT, NCTMB, CH is trained in the John Barnes Approach to Myofascial Release and AMMA Therapy®. She is a NCBTMB continuing education provider and owner of East-West Holistic Healing Arts in Old Town Scottsdale, Ariz. 480-313-6260 or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 4, Aug/Sept 2010.

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