Self Myofascial Release

Self myofascial release (SMR) is a excellent way to improve flexibility and mobility of tight muscles and restricted joints. It works on two principles: it breaks up fascial adhesions and it manipulates certain neuromuscular receptors to let the muscle release any tightnessSelf myofascial release is the process of applying pressure to muscular knots with implements like balls and rollers to bring about a release of tension. Basically the same release one gets from static stretching. It may be likened to self-massage. With the correct instruction and extreme caution, it can be an incredibly effective skill set to have in your recovery ‘tool box.’ SMR permits an athlete to efficiently deal with some of the knots that develop during the course of their conditioning with out having to wait until their therapist is available for an appointment. When the athlete does eventually make an appointment with a massage therapist, their therapist can go to work on the really deep knots that pretty simply were impossible to get to before because of all the other tension in the muscles.

Fascia is a three-dimensional fibrous matrix interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Fascia encompases muscles, bones, and joints providing the body structural integrity and strength. Dysfunctional fascia is a major cause of chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and reduced athletic performance. Positioned within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and the golgi tendon organ. These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system. They are extremely sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change. Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ results in a reduce in soft tissue tension.

Putting pressure directly on tight or overly toned muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy or self-myofascial release techniques stimulates the golgi tendon organ to relax tension in the soft tissue. Reduces in soft tissue tension will help break down scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, reduce pain, and improve overall function.

You should do SMR before your workout routines or runs. This will help your restricted areas improve their mobility and function allowing you to perform better. You may also do it right after your exercise, run or any time you feel you have excessive tension in an area. Trigger points occur when you use or stress a muscle, and some small parts of the muscle fiber knot up. Fundamentally they stay contracted even when the muscle is relaxed. These trigger points can lead to pain continuously or just after being touched. The impact they can have elsewhere on the body is also problematic. Due to the fact the muscles are all connected in a ‘net’ across the body, trigger points that go unchecked can manifest into issues on other parts of your body. For example, if you have knee pain this may often be stimulated by a lack of mobility in the hips.

Self-myfascial techniques are very easy to learn. To do self-myofascial release you will need a foam roller and a small ball (such as a golf ball, lacrosse ball, or softball). Loosen up your body, breathe, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. Your muscles will effortlessly tense up, especially when you hit a trigger point. Relieve into it and allow yourself to relax.

If you find a uncomfortable spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a very hot knife. Allow pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a considerable reduction in pain. Once the pain reduces drastically, move on to the following painful spot and repeat. Spend between 3-5 minutes on each side. It is really necessary that you spend an equal amount of time on both sides and that you work through each of the areas listed to gain the most out of SMR.

Self myofascial release is a growing principle of self-care that enables the person to not only feel much better by relieving some of the tension in their tight muscles but it also helps to decrease dysfunctional compensations by restoring correct range of motion during movement. It is not a question of ‘if’ the muscles will develop an ischemic condition or an adhesion, but ‘when’ and ‘how much’ of the muscle will be affected.

Self myofascial release will help the athlete to continue to pursue their competitive goals longer and with fewer injuries by the very nature of enhancing blood flow and biomechanical function. Slow work equals fast releases within the soft tissues. We are much better at turning muscles on than switching them off.

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