Myofascial release and low back pain

Low back pain can be defined as either ‘non-specific’ (there’s no obvious cause) or ‘mechanical/ specific’ (the pain originates from the joints, bones or soft tissues in and around the spine, which might be caused by disc herniation, infection, fracture, spinal deformity or a tumour) (NHS, 2021; Chen et al, 2021).  

Some studies have also indicated that one cause of low back pain is the limited function of the back and deep trunk muscles caused by changes in the structure of the fascia (Chen et al, 2021).  

A systematic review recently published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine aimed to analyse the effects of myofascial release (MFR) on patients with low back pain, to help ‘improve the evidence of MFR in the treatment of low back pain and provide reliable recommendations for clinical rehabilitation therapists’. 

The review only included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) where the participants were at least 18 years of age, had been diagnosed with low back pain and had experienced pain for no less than three months. In addition, the experimental group had to be treated with MFR alone or MFR combined with physical therapy, manual therapy, or exercise therapy for low back pain. The control group had to be treated with a non-MFR treatment. Outcome measures used in the studies included pain intensity, back disability, lumbar range of motion, and quality of life in low back pain patients, but each RCT did not necessarily cover all four measures. 

Based on an analysis of eight studies (386 patients) that met the review’s inclusion criteria, the findings suggest that ‘MFR can improve the effect of physical therapy alone and exercise therapy alone, and that MFR can be an effective adjuvant therapy. Meta-analysis showed that MFR has a significant effect on reducing back disability in patients with low back pain, but no significant effect on reducing pain intensity, improving quality of life, and improving lumbar range of motion’. 

Access the full study 

Did you enjoy this research summary? 

The summary above will be published in the Autumn 2021 issue of International Therapist magazine. To find out more about the many benefits of being an FHT member, visit 


Chen Z, Wu J, Wang X, Wu J, Ren Z. The effects of myofascial release technique for patients with low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2021 Jun;59:102737. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102737. Epub 2021 May 10. PMID: 33984499. 

Photo: Kindel Media from Pexels

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