Self-Myofascial Release - Uses and Benefits
Self-myofascial release (SMR), also known as "foam rolling," has transformed from a technique used only by professional athletes, coaches, and therapists to a familiar everyday practice for people at all levels of fitness. Foam roller exercises are a form of massage that anyone do either before exercise to loosen up sore muscles and tight joints, or after a workout, in an effort to aid muscle recovery.
Here are five main reasons to incorporate foam rolling into daily routine:
1. Improved flexibility and increased range of motion
Many individuals spend long periods of time sitting — whether that be at a desk or on a plane — leading to tight, shortened muscle tissue and subsequently poor joint mobility. SMR improves the range of motion one can perform as well as increase the elasticity of muscles, providing better flexibility to the human body.
2. Better circulation
SMR helps allow oxygen and other nutrients to reach the muscles and other soft tissues.
3. Stress reduction
SMR helps reduce and eliminate stored tension in muscles, which aids in alleviating aches and pains.
4. Reduce exercise-related soreness
Foam rolling has been shown to decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) when performed post-exercise, which is caused from hyper-extension to muscle groups and micro-tearing the muscle fibers.
5. Help Prevent injury
SMR, along with stretching post-exercise, helps improve tissue recovery to prevent short or long term injury
There are many resources online that detail how to target specific muscles in self-myofascial release. Bodybuilding's website is a great source on how to focus foam rolling on a specific region of the body. Foam rolling can be done for durations of 30 to 90 seconds on the more tender spots, and at least once or twice a week to daily. Here are five beginner tips for foam rolling before starting any regime:
1. Go Slow
Quick, jerking movement doesn’t give the nervous system enough time to communicate with the targeted muscle to relax. The key to maximum benefits with foam rolling is to roll slow.
2. Never Roll Across a Joint
One of the most important things to remember when foam rolling is to not to roll over a joint, as this can cause hyper-extension of the joint, which can result in injury.
3. Keep Breathing
Sometimes, foam rolling can be rather painful. Holding your breath causes unnecessary muscle tension, making it harder to reach the trigger points that are causing problems. Discomfort will reduce with frequency, and breathing into the motion can help the body relax.
4. Repetition is Key
The more times you roll a particular muscle group, the less painful the experience and the more benefits you will see.
5. Don’t Roll Your Lower Back
Rolling the lower back can do more harm than good because it creates potentially damaging pressure in and around the large lumbar discs and vertebrae of that part of your double-S shaped spine. The cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper back) are more flexible than your lower back, so it’s okay to roll these out, but you should only ever use very gentle pressure.
Self-myofascial release techniques have become increasingly popular, and for good reason. Rolling yourself out on a foam roller becomes an additional benefit to the muscles, along with specialized massage therapy. Other tools, such as "the cane" or a tennis ball can be utilized to target specific sore areas of the body. Try doing a self-myofascial release exercise after the gym next time to reap its amazing benefits!
Junker, Daniel, and Thomas Stöggl. “The foam roll as a tool to improve hamstring flexibility.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/National Strength & Conditioning Association (2015).
Healey, Kellie C., et al. “The effects of myofascial release with foam rolling on performance.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28.1 (2014): 61-68.
Fama, Brian J., and David R. Bueti. “The acute effect of self-myofascial release on lower extremity plyometric performance.” (2011).
Pearcey, Gregory EP, et al. “Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures.” Journal of Athletic Training 50.1 (2015): 5-13.