I have written previously on the blog about John F. Barnes' Myofascial Release.
I'd like to tell you that that blog series, revealing as it did the depth of quackery and willful scientific ignorance inherent to the method, changed the way this approach was discussed, either on MFR Talk or on Mr Barnes' blog. Unfortunately, that's not the case. In fact, here's an excerpt from John F. Barnes' latest message to those on the MFR Talk list:
I'm in Ocean City, Maryland, presenting my Myofascial Release I class.
The class was very subdued until today. Talk about kicking the pebble
that starts the avalanche! I was treating a young therapist on stage
and she got in touch with a keep wound and started to cry. She went
back in time and her voice sounded very young. The rest of the class
started to sob and wail almost instantaneously. The chaos was powerful
We can see here his allusion to many of the concepts we discussed in the previous blog posts. Explosive chaos - that's what I'm looking for in a CME course. However, he also sent this:
It's been a rough year for most of us. Harsh....Unrelenting... You get
knocked down, you get up and you get knocked down again. It feels like
we are being tested. We are !
Our society taught us to be victims, worrying in fear of what others
may think, never daring to be different, lurking in the shadows.
Our society tried to homogenize us, ridiculing our uniqueness, stamping
out our creativity and intuition, our most important attributes were
taken from us. We can and must reclaim our power and our uniqueness !
Be proud of who you are. Honor your uniqueness, it is your strength.
As we enter the MFR world we may have not realized that we were going
to be a renegade. A renegade faces challenges, criticism, pain and deep
We are bucking the tide, standing up for our self and for our patients for what we believe and know to be true and important !
As a renegade for change, we run the gauntlet. It is bruising, it is
tough. No matter how many times we get knocked down, we will get up. We
will never give up!
The time has come to lick our wounds, not in self pity, but to
acknowledge our pain, our disappointment, our fear to it's depths so
that we may grow stronger and live our life fully and joyfully.
The "Ancient Warrior" is writing this post for you through me.
If you just felt a tingle in the back of your neck, this message is for YOU !
I have a vision of us individually and as a group connected in a web of love falling into the abyss.
When times get tough, we tend to limit our feeling to get through
things. We need to stop and soften into our feelings fully. Over the
next few days, be with yourself, ask your inner guide for help and
guidance. Then dive into the abyss, let go of control. No brakes and
fall into the depth of your feelings, unresolved emotions, and the
As we "free fall" we will gain more confidence in our strength,
integrity and wisdom. Do this a number of times over the next few days
totally feeling and expressing the primal fear that lies deep in your
heart to allow your broken heart to heal.
Receive MFR treatments regularly, treat yourself daily. No Excuses!,
discipline yourself, and change your attitude. You deserve it. Look
forward to it. Enjoy exploring your inner depths.
It is our responsibility. Much is expected of us. Look at this
responsibility not as a chore, but an honor, something that you have
been chosen for. Next year is going to be huge! Be ready for it.
Massive changes will occur and your strength and clarity is essential
to guide others. "We are the ones we have been waiting for!"
On Sunday night, we will join together by the luminescent web that
connects our hearts and we will leap into the abyss together. We will
fall and fall through our unfelt feelings and obsolete concepts and
just as we feel that all is lost, we will rebound powerfully on a
trampoline, a web of liquid light. We will soar to heights unknown
Commit yourself to this. There is strength in numbers.
Celebrate having had the courage to run the gauntlet. Be proud of being
a renegade. And let's live our life easily and joyfully !
Who could make this up? It appears to me that JFB-MFR has many characteristics of what some might consider a cult. Looking from the outside (and from the inside, if you subscribe to MFR Talk), we have many characteristics or warning signs of such a phenomenon:
1. Members receive unconditional love, attention, and acceptance from the leader
2. Problems are reduced to one simple explanation, which is repeatedly emphasized
ie, Myofascial restrictions and trapped memories.
3. People get a new identity based on the group
eg, MFR Talk requires you to sign your name with the MFR courses you've taken
4. The group has beliefs or practices that run counter to the prevailing culture or mainstream
5. Members are told that the leader's way is the true path and that outsiders are misinformed and to be mistrusted
6. Members are given constant reinforcement against the ideas of those outside the group
7. Members are exalted for loyalty to the leader and his principles in the face of outside ideas
8. Members are put in physically or emotionally distressing situations
Is JFB-MFR a cult? I don't know. But I've seen enough to wonder about it. It's at least a very strange sociological phenomenon within Physical Therapy, and it also seems to involve many massage therapists and other healthcare providers as well. Of interest is how they seem to want to cast themselves as "renegades", anticipating how far outside the mainstream they are in terms of their "approach". It's this disconnect from actual scientific thought and any real discussion of their theory and method that they are so very proud of. This is exactly the opposite of the movement our profession as a whole is making toward evidence in practice and individual and professional accountability.
In the November 2005 editorial from the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy, Dr Julie Fritz and Dr Tim Flynn mentioned the importance of controlling unwarranted practice variation. They discussed such variation as a major factor leading to the loss of autonomy of a profession - and even used Myofascial Release as an example.
I think the more we know and understand about such movements in our
profession, the better we can act to move forward toward Vision 2020
with a clear idea about what we want our profession to be - and what we
DON'T want it to be.
Jason Silvernail DPT