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Myofascial Unwinding

By Dan Bosy, RPT

Myofascial Unwinding has been described for decades by osteopathic practitioners as well as John F. Barnes.  It is related to Myofascial Release in that the fascia (also known as the connective tissue) is the tissue that will often release during an unwinding process. People who are receiving Myofascial Release can also spontaneously unwind.


What is Myofascial Unwinding?

“Myofascial Unwinding is the body’s way of self-correcting through the motion of the subconscious.” – John F. Barnes

In a simple description, Myofascial Unwinding is a process where a person moves using their subconscious, creative, feeling and intuitive part of their brain (Channel 3) while their conscious, logical and thinking aspect (Channel 5) is observing.  Neuroscientists have shown that Channel 3 receives 10 million times the information that Channel 5 receives. So if we can get Channel 3 working for us to help us heal, it is more likely to help us move in ways that will be beneficial.


What are the Benefits of Myofascial Unwinding?

  • Reduced muscle spasms
  • Reduced muscle tightness
  • Decreased pain
  • Improved motion and mobility
  • Improved awareness
  • Decreased disability

How does a person learn to “Unwind?”

For the uninitiated, a therapist will guide a person into a relaxed state where they will feel what is happening through their body. Once in this soft state, Channel 5 is quiet and Channel 3 is active and dominant, the person will start to move. The movement may be smooth and rhythmic, jerky, or fast and unpredictable. The person may believe that the therapist is moving their body but as they become more aware of their own body they will realize that the therapist is not moving them at all but helping to guide them based on their tissue tension into positions of ease. The role of the therapist is to remove gravity from the equation.  As a person learns more about how to get into the relaxed state, they can even perform an unwinding independent of the therapist and they will realize that it is their own subconscious feeling mind that is guiding the process.  One patient has described this state as an “alternative consciousness.”

Below you will see a video of John F. Barnes demonstrating an Unwinding.


What is a “Still Point?”

When unwinding, the body moves in all different directions, moving a person through many different positions.  Sometimes, the movement stops for short periods of time before it resumes. This is called a “Still Point.” John F. Barnes, a physiotherapist who is known around the world as an authority on Myofascial Release, states that still points are positions where something has happened to us and our body stops there to help us experience it in our goal to heal ourselves. These positions can be positions where we were injured, whether that injury was traumatic or not. By experiencing the event while feeling allows us to process it on a more complete level – not only physically but also emotionally and psychologically. Then movement starts again as the tissue that was tight lets go and releases.

What is a “Freeze Point?”

A “Freeze Point” is a position that an unwinding stops and does not resume in a short period of time. Often the person has dissociated and is no longer feeling what is happening in their body. This may be due to the traumatic nature associated with the position and the conscious part of their mind not allowing them to experience what is there to help protect them. There may be a reason why that person has buried it whether it was to allow them to survive a situation, or spare them the unpleasantness of the memory.

When a person has awareness and feeling (Channel 5) what is happening through their body, they will experience tightness with releases of the fascia as they move through positions. The fascia is made of collagen fibers, elastic fibers and a fluid called ground substance, it is the collagen fibers that generally release and allow the tissues to loosen. The ground substance will also be able to absorb more water reducing its viscosity and permitting greater movement of the tissues. Collagen fibres are hollow fibers that can contain energy which is released when the fiber breaks. Photons contain information which is then interpreted by our mind and gives us insight into the conditions when the fibers were laid down.  Thus a person can heal more completely than just physically.


A significant portion of the information in this article was paraphrased from courses taken from John F. Barnes approach to Myofascial Release.  Any discrepancies in this article are this author’s interpretation of this method of treatment.

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