I have the pleasure of sharing with our readers, every couple of weeks, information that can help them in their fitness journey. Keeping in that spirit, in this issue I want to introduce you to Myofacial Release (MFR) and in particular Self Myofacial Release (SMR). The benefits of starting or finishing a workout with SMR are truly amazing. If you currently use or have ever used a foam roller, then you know what I am talking about.
First let me give you a quick definition of what fascia is. The medical dictionary defines fascia as “a sheet of fibrous tissue that envelopes the body beneath the skin; it also encloses muscles and groups of muscles and separates their several layers”. Have you ever looked at a piece of meat and seen that silvery sheen that covers the meat, that is a simple example for you. It is very strong connective tissue and allows muscles to slide smoothly over each other while your body is in motion, but it is stiff and provides overstretching resistance for the muscle. It provides a balanced and stabilizing structure in our bodies. Therefore, just like other parts of our body that can get injured, so can your fascia. Years of poor posture, old injuries, surgeries, are three examples of contributing factors to cause stress and adhesions on your body’s inner web, your fascia.
We are going to jump past the injury stage and go to the recovery or injury prevention stage for your fascia. I mentioned MFR and SMR at the beginning of the article. MFR is a hands on technique for relieving the pain associated with tight and or sore muscles. The goal for this therapy is to loosen up the fascia surrounding the muscle or joint area and restore movement. Being that it is hands on some of the health care professionals you would seek MFR therapy from are: a massage therapist; a physical or occupational therapist; a chiropractor to name a few. A more recent provider that I actually sought out for my own injury was a certified Fascial Stretch Therapist (FST). These all require appointments and come with a cost that sometimes insurance will cover. If the injury is significant, I would certainly seek one of these professional out and get their recommendation on treatment.
Now let me tell you about SMR and the foam roller. SMR is applying the same stretch therapy to the tight area(s) only you are not with that earlier mentioned therapist; it is you and your foam roller. Foam rollers come in many shapes and sizes. A simple google search on SMR Foam Roller returned about 191,000 hits. In my center we have 2 sizes, 18 inches and 36 inches in length and 6 inches in diameter. These can be ordered online or you can find them in sports equipment stores and in sporting good sections of other stores. To use the roller, you simply place the roller under the muscle or body part needing attention, let your weight settle against it and gently roll back and forth covering the area of tightness. If in your rolling you hit a particular spot that is more painful (hot spot, trigger point) stop rolling and hold that position until it loosens up. When I have clients rolling out their quads (front of thigh) and they find one of these hot spots, I have them hold that spot and then perform some leg curl movements to lengthen that quad muscle. You are going to hate that foam roller when you first start and limit your first time use to maybe 10 or 15 minutes and put at least 24 hours between rolling sessions for the same area. Some additional benefits of foam rolling include the following:
• Restores post injury mobility in its ability to break up scar tissue
• Improves blood circulation as studies have shown improved artery function
• Maintains the heath of your spinal column by decreasing tension in the upper back in particular (bend over that computer all day)
• Improves flexibility
• Reduces stress by releasing tension built up in tight muscles
• Saves you some dollars body work maintenance
There are many more benefits you will see through the use of foam rolling. I foam roll after workouts as a part of my post recovery routine. If I have warmed up sufficiently ahead of a workout I will sometimes foam roll to get the muscles extra ready ☺ Body work for you is so essential to maintain optimal health. I still see my chiropractor and use massage therapy monthly as maintenance to stay ahead of all of those old high school sports injuries. If you are interested in learning more on foam rolling and different techniques to apply, seek out a Certified Fitness Pro where you train. Have this Professional show you how to correctly incorporate foam rolling into your workout routines. I wish you great health and fitness, Bob