Introduction

A fascial hydrodissection and hydrorelease are new highly-specialized procedures that are gaining traction in treating fascial pain. Fascia is not only a protective covering of many organs, nerves, bone, skin, and muscle but also has many nerve fibers that course through it. When fascia is injured or develops scar tissue, the nerve endings can get irritated and cause pain. A fascial hydrodissection procedure involves injecting a fluid under ultrasound guidance to release tight fascia that is pushing on a nerve, such as the carpal tunnel nerve. A hydrorelease is similar but specifically involves injecting a fluid under ultrasound guidance to break up scar tissue or fascial adhesions, most often found in muscle. Both procedures require extensive training and experience but are showing immense success in the clinic. Only a few specialists in the world can safely and successfully perform a fascial hydrodissection or hydrorelease. 

Hydrodissection

Instead of immediately getting surgery for an entrapped nerve, you may consider a nerve hydrodissection first. There are four common areas in which a nerve hydrodissection is performed. The first involves hydrodissecting the dorsal scapular nerve, which is the nerve that causes pain in the upper back and near the shoulder blades (Fascial Hydrodissection for Medial Scapular Border Pain: Case Series of Treatment for Myofascial Pain Syndrome). This nerve can be entrapped between the fascia that separates the trapezius and rhomboid muscles. A nerve hydrodissection in this area can significantly reduce pain, but it may take a few sessions because of the large area of this particular fascial plane. 

The second most common area involves hydrodissecting the cluneal nerve, which is a common (often underdiagnosed) cause of low back pain. Similar to the hydrodissection of the dorsal scapular nerve, it may take many treatments to fully release the nerve. However, many patients do report significant improvement after the first treatment. 

Hydrodissection of the median nerve (carpal tunnel nerve) and ulnar nerve at the elbow (cubital tunnel) can also lead to significant improvement. Numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers often come from fascial entrapment of the ulnar and median nerves. Performing a fascial hydrodissection can allow improved blood flow and function to the nerves now that they are no longer compressed. 

Below is a video of fascial scar tissue compressing an ulnar nerve. It may be difficult to note to the untrained eye, but the nerve hydrodissection is freeing up the ulnar nerve. The patient reported a full resolution of pain following the highly-specialized procedure. 

 

Hydrorelease

A hydrorelease is virtually the same procedure as a hydrodissection, but involves fascia in and between muscles. When viewing areas of pain under ultrasound imaging, fascia thickening is a common theme. Instead of two sheets of fascia, a fascial adhesion may involve 5 or 6 layers that are tight and do not move well. When multiple areas of abnormal fascial planes exist in an area that causes pain, a hydrorelease procedure may be considered. 

Under ultrasound guidance, the highly trained and experienced physician will inject fluid between the fascial planes to spread them apart and release them. The hydrorelease procedure typically involves treating a wide area to reduce fascial tightness. The most common areas of a fascial hydrorelease include the neck, trapezius muscles, pec muscles, biceps, forearms, mid and low back, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves. Quite often fascial release can also be performed for the foot. We may recommend equipment, such as a hamstring sleeve after the procedure. 

Similar to hydrodissections, a hydrorelease can offer immediate relief but is best used for long-term treatment. More than one hydrorelease session may be needed.

Please note that a hydrodissection or hyrdorelease is not a guaranteed treatment. Treating pain can be complex. However, addressing fascial health can often result in significant or complete relief. 

The below video shows the unique hydrorelease procedure that separates fascial planes to reduce lower back pain. 

 

Safety

The hydrodissection and hydrorelease procedures are safe when a highly trained and experienced physician performs them. Because there are significant permanent risks that can occur to tendons, muscles, ligaments, organs, nerve tissue, or blood vessels, an expert needs to perform these procedures.

Dr. Courseault is one of the few worldwide experts and pioneers of fascial treatments including hydrodissections and hydroreleases. In fact, he is the first to describe the hamstring hydrodissection procedure. He may be the only physician in the world to perform certain other hydrodissection or hydrorelease procedures. 

Therefore, we recommend an initial evaluation at the Fascia Institute and Treatment Center, or your local fascial specialist to make sure the procedure is performed in a safe and effective manner. 

Note on Insurance Coverage

Insurance covers the consultation to determine if you are a candidate. However, the hydrodissection and hydrorelease procedures are considered “investigational” and are not covered by insurance. The Fascia Institute and Treatment Center charges $500 per procedure. This is an all-inclusive cost. You are eligible to use HSA/FSA funds if available. You will be provided a receipt if you would like to attempt reimbursement from your insurance company.

Summary

While hydrodissection and hydrorelease procedures are emerging in the field of musculoskeletal and sports medicine, the patient specific treatment of fascia is effective when performed by an expert. The hydrodissection and hydrorelease procedures involve little downtime so our patients and athletes can go back to doing what they love as soon as possible.

View Dr. Courseault’s interview on hydrodissection with Meg Farris of WWL-TV.