Self-myofascial release (SMR) has become a flexibility technique embraced across the health and fitness industry. It’s simple to do, equipment is usually inexpensive and easy to store. The benefits of this technique bring positive results to everyone who utilizes them. Using the functional foam roller or lacrosse ball with body weight or the stick can bring about improvements in flexibility, muscle recovery, movement efficiency, along with pain reduction and an array of additional perks one can experience with only a few minutes of application.
A fascia is a layer of fibrous tissue. A fascia structure is connective tissue that surrounds muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other.
Everyone should perform SMR. SMR focuses on the neural and fascia systems in the body which can be negatively influenced by poor posture and/or repetitive motions of dysfunctional movements. These mechanically stressful actions are recognized as an injury to the body, thus initiating a repair process called Cumulative Injury Cycle. This cycle follows a path of inflammation, muscle spasm, development of soft tissue adhesions that can lead to altered neuromuscular control and muscle imbalance. The adhesions reduce the elasticity of the soft tissue and can eventually cause a permanent change in the soft tissue structure, referred to as Davis’s Law. Davis’s Law, in simply terms states if one muscle is strong and inflexible the opposite muscle will be weak and flexible. For example, if the quadriceps muscle group or the front of the thigh is strong and inflexible then the hamstring muscle group or the back of the thigh will be weak and flexible. A muscle imbalance of this nature will not allow the muscles to work correctly by allowing proper pelvic or core stabilization, ultimately resulting in back discomfort. SMR focuses on alleviating the adhesions, also known as “trigger points or knots” to restore optimal muscle motion and function.
Two key words describe how SMR works: autogenic inhibition. There are two neural receptors located on skeletal muscle tissue that are sensitive to change and rate of muscle length, the muscle spindle and Golgi tendon organs (GTO). When the muscle spindle receptors are stimulated they cause the muscle to contract. When the GTO receptors are stimulated they cause the muscle to relax.
When a change in tension is sustained, with an adequate intensity and duration, muscle spindle activity is inhibited causing a decrease in trigger point activity, accompanied by a reduction of pain. Thus, when the pressure of the body against the foam roller is sustained on the trigger point, the GTO will “turn off” the muscle spindle activity and allow the muscle to stretch.
Some of the benefits include:
- Correction of muscle imbalances.
- Provides optimal length-tension relationships.
- Muscle relaxation.
- Improved joint range of motion.
- Improved neuromuscular efficiency.
- Improved tissue recovery and repair.
- Reduction of soreness.
- Suppression/reduction of trigger point sensitivity and pain.
- Decrease of overall effects of stress on the human movement system.
Ideally, SMR should be done before static or dynamic stretching activities. This can potentially improve the tissue’s ability to lengthen during the stretch activities since the fascial adhesions are diminished. SMR can also be done as part of the cool-down portion of an exercise program.
One key to performing SMR correctly is to maintain your stability in the lumbopelvic-hip complex, the muscles core. You maintain core stability or a neutral spine by “stiffening” the abdominal and gluteal muscles.
Search and destroy the “trigger” or “knots”. Slowly roll different areas of the body until you find a tender spot. Roll back and forth over those spots until the discomfort is reduced . You can also try staying on the spot while relaxing the targeted area until the discomfort is reduced, between 30 to 90 seconds.
SMR is a valuable technique to implement into your training program. It can bring about improvements in flexibility, movement efficiency, and reduce the pain associated with trigger points. Consult with your local fitness professional to help you get started experiencing the benefits of SMR.
Resource: PFP Magazine