Myofascial Release Therapy for your Ribs: How to Massage Intercostal Muscles

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massage therapy ribs myofascial releaseA Seminar: Myofascial Release for your Ribs

At Boulder Therapeutics, we encourage our therapists to take advanced trainings and seminars. We want to be as highly-skilled as possible so we can provide you with the highest level of care. Recently, some of our therapists attended a hands-on workshop with educator, Til Lichau. He demonstrated many myofascial release techniques for the thorax and ribs.

Rib Pain

The thorax or ribs are not commonly worked on or requested unless a client has been injured or thinks a rib is “locked up”. Usually, if a rib has been injured, the client will request for the area to be entirely avoided. This may or may not be the best option for healing. Having a skilled therapist is important because knowing when and how to work with rib muscles and connective tissue in a delicate area is beneficial for preventing long term scar tissue build up, which can interfere with breathing and cause future pain. Painful ribs can also affect your breathing.

Ribs are Supposed to be Mobile

Lichau’s rib workshop included his unique attention to the 12 sets of ribs, the vertebrae, the intercostals, the diaphragm and the back muscles. The techniques presented were based on the biomechanics of the ribs. They are not a rigid cage, but instead act like Venetian blinds, “opening and closing “ during each and every breath.

The costal vertebral joints (12 on each side) have a specific movement, much like a piano key. If you’ve ever pressed a piano key that didn’t make sound, that is not ideal. Ribs are supposed to be mobile; however, the ribs can become rigid, compressed, dislocated and deformed, and that’s when you’ll likely need some myofascial release.

What is Myofascial Release?

“Myo” is muscle and fascia is a thin, connective tissue that surrounds and supports the muscles and other organs of the body. Restrictions or adhesions in the fascia can cause pain and discomfort, and that myofascial release can help to reduce these restrictions and improve function.

Myofascial release is a type of manual therapy that is used to treat pain and dysfunction in the muscles and fascia, that differs from deep tissue, trigger point or Swedish massage. It is a highly specialized stretching & deep, manual therapy technique used by massage therapists to treat patients with a variety of soft-tissue problems.

Myofascial release techniques may involve the use of tissue stretching, muscle shearing and/or compression to help release tension in the muscles and fascia. These techniques may be helpful for relieving rib pain, particularly if the pain is caused by muscle tension or restrictions in the fascia.

It is important to note that myofascial release should be performed by a trained therapist, as improper technique can cause further injury. If you are experiencing rib pain, it is recommended that you consult a healthcare professional, such as a massage therapist or a physical therapist or doctor, for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How to Massage Intercostal Muscles with this Myofascial Release Technique: Bucket Handle Release

The bucket handle release technique focuses on each and every rib. It is an active release technique where the client’s rib movement during breath facilitates the release. This work helps to release the bound connective tissue, or scar tissue, which can prevent movement of the ribs. This myofascial release technique helps to create ease of movement throughout the rib cage.

Myofascial Release Technique: Surfing the Ribs

Surfing the ribs is another myofascial release technique. Here, the therapist places their hands, like a surfboard over the waves of the ribs, and holds compression at a level of comfort to the client. The therapist’s hands then “ride” the movement of the clients inhalation and exhalation, gently deepening into the exhale and rising on the inhale.

Ongoing Care for the Ribs

Of course there are many more techniques which could benefit injuries to your ribs or thorax. With so many muscles, ribs and attachment points, one soft-tissue session would be of great value but often not complete. It is common for a client’s back muscles to be excessively tight or crooked to compensate for rib pain. In those cases, Trigger Point Therapy or Deep Tissue Massage Therapy to release tension in the back may help release the posterior ribs or compensation patterns. Remember, each rib is like a half moon shape having an anterior, lateral and posterior side. When the ribs are free moving and not excessively bound, they allow for the most mobility, efficient breathing and the least amount of pain.

Ask for myofascial release of your ribs from an experienced therapist and feel the difference it makes.

Boulder Therapeutics, Inc.

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