Self myofascial release (SMR) is becoming increasingly popular as a recovery and injury prevention strategy; but what is it and does it actually help?
Fascia is a fibrous soft connective tissue that permeates the human body forming a supportive web of tissue around all components and compartments. There are 3 types of fascia that are all interconnected:
• Superficial: lies beneath the skin
• Visceral: wraps around organs suspending them in their cavities
• Deep: surrounds muscles and divides muscle groups into compartments.
When fascia becomes irritated via trauma, overuse, disuse, inflammation or lack of stretching, the fascia can get stuck to the underlying muscles through the formation of fibrous adhesions. This results in restricted movement, abnormal movement patterns and can cause pain. Since the fascia system is a whole body structure; fascia restrictions in one area will not only affect that area but it can have knock on effect for the rest of the kinetic chain; particularly those muscles and joints contained in the same myofascial sling. For example: pain in your lower back may be linked to some fibrous adhesions in the fascia in your calf, perhaps from an old injury.
Fascial adhesions need to be broken up and the fibres realigned with movement; you can’t stretch a fascial knot. This is why manual therapies like massage of trigger point release are so effective but sometimes its not possible to get these treatments as often as you need. A simple way to do it yourself is with a foam roller, or a trigger point ball. To perform fascial release simply locate the problem area and roll over the area for about 20-60 seconds. Ideally you should be able to feel your skin shifting slightly over the area you are working on. Exact dosage has not yet been established and further research is required to find out the exact time, pressure and consistency to be most effective. However, evidence has shown improvements in pain, flexibility and sometimes even muscle performance following a foam rolling session (Schroeder and Best, 2015).
SMR is a cost effective and simple method to self manage fascial tightness at home. If you would like more information or guidance on specific problem areas for you, please make an appointment with one of our Physiotherapists
MSc (pre-reg), MCSP, HAAD
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References: Shroeder , A.N., and Best, T.M. (2015) Is self myofascial release an effective pre-exercise and recovery strategy? A literature Review. American College of Sports Medicine. (14)3: 200-208