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Release me! 

Paul Ingraham ARCHIVEDMicroblog posts are archived and rarely updated. In contrast, most long-form articles on PainScience.com are updated regularly over the years.

I am getting almost as fed up with the word “release” in massage therapy as I am with “toxins.”

“Release” does not (indeed, it cannot) refer to any known, specific state of soft tissue. It’s poetry, not biology. It’s massage-speak for “better in some way, hopefully for more than ten minutes.”

As commonly used, the word strongly suggests an actual change in the flesh…but this assumption derives only from vague, erratic, uninterpretable sensory cues. Most therapists say — not all of them, importantly, but most — that they can feel tissue changing texture as they work, but that could easily be misinterpreted muscle behaviour and palpatory pareidolia.

Patients may experience a kaleidoscopic array of sensations during massage, and often call it “release” if they perceive an especially significant improvement (from feeling “stuck” to feeling “relieved,” say) — but we have almost no idea what any of these sensations imply about tissue state, if anything. People also have profound shifts in sensation from a good back scratch, fervent prayer, and eating cheesecake!

There are several more paragraphs about “release” in my article about fascia.

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