john f. barnes myofascial releaseMore than 50 years ago, Albert Einstein and Max Planck proved that the then-current model of reality—the human body as a machine that can be mechanically or chemically fixed—was erroneous. Yet this incomplete, inaccurate and obsolete paradigm is still being taught in medical, dental and therapeutic educational programs today. Planck, one of the world’s greatest scientists and the father of quantum physics, said, “Science advances one funeral at a time.” I can’t wait until these old and dangerous ideas die.

The good news for us as practitioners is that Myofascial Release produces consistent results, and science is now beginning to catch up to Myofascial Release therapists and what we’ve been practicing and teaching for more than 40 years.

An outdated paradigm

A paradigm is our model of reality, which is a set of shared assumptions that go unquestioned over time. The prevailing traditional paradigm you and I were taught is the Cartesian/Newtonian model of reality, which is more than 300 years old.              

Have we really moved out of ancient history? For centuries many of the churches of that time maintained an iron grip on the minds and bodies of the populace, demanding total control. Some churches taught of a loving God, guiding and helping us through life, while other churches used the image of a vengeful God, to scare people into yielding to their way while also generating enormous wealth.

Humans divided

Many of the great scientists of that time were in a fight with the church. Descartes, the philosopher and founding father of modern medicine, was forced to make a deal with his church to obtain the human bodies he needed for dissection; he agreed he would stick purely to the study of the physical human body in his medical research, leaving all issues related to the soul, emotions and mind to be governed by the church.

Frustrated by this struggle for control, they agreed to parcel out different aspects of the human experience. Churches took the spirit, physicians took the biochemistry, psychiatrists took the mind, and therapists got the flesh. Nobody wanted the emotions. The pendulum swung too far, in that it lost sight of the human as a whole being, and we still erroneously believe human beings can actually be fragmented and treated as such.

The human body, like the universe of Descartes’ and Newton’s worldview, is perceived as an ordered and logical system; if something goes wrong, medical science suggests, there can be only one correct answer. This approach to human health has been disastrous, as it reduces disease to a set of symptoms to be cured, and human beings to the sum total of their parts.

The principles of Myofascial Release are in direct opposition to this way of thinking, and always have been. When we as therapists work with our clients, we are treating the whole person, not just his or her physical condition. Science is finally starting to realize the link between wellness and the nurturing of the human being as a whole being.

For evidence of this shift, look to sources such as the 2007 book, The Extracellular Matrix and Ground Regulation: Basis for a Holistic Biological Medicine, by Alfred Pischinger. Pischinger’s research during the 20th century focused on the connection between our extracellular matrix and the hormonal and nervous systems and how they communicate, and has provided the underpinning of much development in the field of manual therapy, from acupuncture to craniosacral therapy.

Modern research is also beginning to suggest there may be much more to the natural compound most critical for life—water—than previously understood. In The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid and Vapor (2013), Gerald Pollack posits that in the cells and tissues of all organisms, water exists in a very special phase: as “living” water. In this phase, called H3O2, water is more ordered and more dense, and can hold and transmit energy, which creates the human body’s negative electrical charge.

We have made great advancements in the complementary health fields, and it is gratifying that science is beginning to recognize and validate the principles by which we practice.

Therapeutic Insight: The John F. Barnes' Myofascial Release Perspective—Liquid Crystalline to Support Life, MASSAGE MagazineAbout the Author

John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 100,000 therapists worldwide in his Myofascial Release approach, and he is the author of Myofascial Release: The Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000). He is on the counsel of advisors of the American Back Society; he is also a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit

For more information about myofascial release, access two excerpts from the Fireside Chat with John F. Barnes, P.T., DVD on YouTube:

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