Therapeutic Insight: The John F. Barnes' Myofascial Release Perspective—Traumatic Imprints Part I, MASSAGE MagazineTraditional therapy has overlooked something important: the position of our body at the moment of trauma. I believe the impact at the moment of trauma can become imprinted within the fluidity of the ground substance of the fascial system.

Why don’t normal bodily movements or daily activities reproduce memories, emotions and outdated beliefs? I believe these positions represent fear, pain or trauma. In an attempt to protect itself from further injury, the subconscious does not allow the body to move into positions that re-enact the micro-events and important microcognitions essential for lasting change. The body then develops strategies or patterns to protect itself. These subconscious holding patterns eventually form specific muscular tone or tension patterns, and the fascial component then tightens into these habitual positions of strain as a compensation to support the misalignment that results. Therefore, the repeated postural and traumatic insults of a lifetime, combined with the tensions of emotional origin, result in tense, contracted, bunched and fatigued fibrous tissue.

A discrete area of the body may become so altered by its efforts to compensate and adapt to stress that structural and eventually, pathologic changes become apparent. Researchers have shown that the type of stress involved can be entirely physical (e.g., repetitive postural strain such as that adopted by a dentist or hairdresser) or purely emotional (e.g., chronic repressed anger).

More often than not, a combination of mental, emotional and physical stresses alters the neuromyofascial and skeletal structures, creating an identifiable physical change, which itself generates further stress, such as pain, joint restriction, general discomfort and fatigue. A chronic stress pattern produces long-term muscular contraction, which, if prolonged, causes energy loss, mechanical inefficiency, pain, cardiovascular pathology and hypertension. The addition of myofascial release can enhance your ability to help others in a substantial way.



John Barnes, MASSAGE MagazineJohn 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 75,000 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 on MASSAGE Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board; and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit

For more information about myofascial release, you can now access two separate excerpts from the Fireside Chat with John F. Barnes, PT DVD on YouTube: 

Part 1

Part 2

To connect with Barnes on Facebook, visit