Rabbit-Hole Science

by Walt Fritz, PT on November 26, 2017

I originally intended to post these comments to a blog on one of the manual therapy/massage magazines, one giving some pretty special power to one named modality (OK, craniosacral therapy) and its ability to improve a disorder (autism) that effects thousands of people and their families, but I realized that my comments would have sidetracked the conversation too much. So here is what I wanted to write:

I have a wish that people publishing studies in scientific journals about specific named modalities, or sub-versions of named modalities, would be required to say, “When we put our hands on someone and did what is described as (MFR, CST, NKT, NMT, or dozens of other acronym modalities), the person improved. This, rather than trying to explain the results from the limited acceptability of one modality’s claims. Myself, when I do what is described as an MFR-style of engagement, people often feel less pain and can move easier. I say it this way vs. spinning a tale about restricted fascia; one that no one outside MFR circles accepts.

On my website I host a Research page. Though I’ve not updated it as well I had in the past, it lists hundreds of studies, many of which are myofascial release-specific. The vast majority of MFR-related published studies are set up in a traditional fashion, wherein MFR is explained in the introduction and nearly always restates the very old and outdated historical narrative when they explain how MFR works and what it effects. For example, in a 2014 study in the journal Indian Journal of Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy titled, “Effectiveness of Myofascial Release in treatment of Plantar Fasciitis: A RCT”, (#77 on my Research page) the following is written:

“Myofascial release is a soft tissue mobilization technique. If the condition is treated in the acute stage, then symptoms will be aggravated. If treated in the chronic stage, the symptoms will alleviate. Myofascial release techniques stem from the foundation that fascia, a connective tissue found throughout the body, reorganizes itself in response to physical stress and thickness along the lines of tension.3 By myofascial release there is a change in the viscosity of the ground substance to a more fluid state which eliminates the fascia’s excessive pressure on the pain sensitive structure and restores proper alignment.4 Hence this technique is proposed to act as a catalyst in the resolution of plantar fasciitis.”

No attempts are made to deconstruct the historical narrative used over the past few decades which has never been shown to be accurate. The curious reader can do their homework to track the two sources referenced in my snippet above, but neither are/were subjected to any peer review and should be taken as nothing but opinion.

Step back from your modality and view it from afar. Are the movements, handholds, and actions that dissimilar than all of the other modalities in use? The biggest differences often lie in the words that come out of our mouths, which were placed in our heads by the people selling us their product. Look at my hands in the photo below. Are they doing things that are that different from what you do, even if you are using a different modality? There is a very good chance that one could list a dozen or more modalities that use handholds remarkably similar to what I am doing below, but most use vastly different tissue or dysfunction-specific stories to explain the results they achieve.

Putting our hands on people is often exceedingly helpful. The trouble comes when we start to explain the “why” from the narrow rabbit-hole science that most modalities use to explain their work, and I include the work I do in this dilemma. If your modality’s proof is not accepted by science outside of the people in your rabbit hole, be suspicious. The MFR narrative I was originally taught, and is still being taught, has nearly no acceptance outside of the MFR community in which it is taught. We can do better. Deconstruct your beliefs and start from scratch.


Walt Fritz, PT


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