By: Jessica Lime
Self-myofascial release is a popular rehabilitation intervention to enhance joint range of motion, reduce muscle soreness and restore exercise performance. Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a method of applying pressure to eliminate or ease the tension of a trigger point to help restore the function of the tissue. Fascia is the layer of connective tissue, which surrounds the muscle.
Exercise can increase the amount of fatigue in our musculoskeletal, nervous and metabolic system. Exercise depending on its frequency, intensity or time can cause additional inflammation. Increased disruption of the muscle fibers can cause delayed onset muscle soreness2. Delayed onset muscle soreness is considered a type 1 muscle strain causing the muscle to be stiff, tender, highly fatigued and cause a decrease in movement2. Delayed onset muscle soreness increases in 24 hours and peaks around 72 and gradually fades away2. Self-myofascial release has been utilized as a common intervention to prevent muscles muscle soreness and have a decrease in muscle pain.
How do you preform SMR?
Utilizing a generic foam roller, a subject is instructed to roll back and forth until they find tension or a knot/trigger point. Once a knot has been found, the subject stops directly on it, applying pressure to the area for 30 seconds. The subject determines the amount of pressure due to the amount of body weight applied. Do not roll out any boney regions on the body (ribs, joints, neck etc.). Also, avoid applying to much pressure or holding tension for too long to avoid potential bruising.
Benefits of SMR
SMR alleviates adhesions (knots or trigger points) to restore optimal motion and function within the muscle3. The skeletal muscle tissue is made up of muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs. Muscle spindle are sensory receptors that are parallel with muscle fiber causing sensitivity to alterations of muscle lengthening3. Golgi tendon organ receptors alter due to change and amount of tension, once they are stimulated the muscle will relax3. When the muscle is having SMR performed to it, the pressure applied to the muscle will stimulate the Golgi tendon organ to shut off the muscle spindle activity allowing the muscles to realign, relax and stretch out3.
Types of rollers
There are several common tools used for self-myofascial release. There is a foam roller, rolling stick, thera-cane, lacrosse ball, tennis ball and hand held thera-guns. Foam rollers are the most common tool to use, especially for lower body. Thera-canes are beneficial for trapezius and scapular musculature. Rolling sticks and thera-guns are beneficial for subjects that are unable to get on the floor or if you need someone to assist with self-myofascial release. Lacrosse and tennis balls are utilized in smaller areas for a more intense/deeper amount of pressure.
1Cheatham, S. W., Kolber, M. J., Cain, M., & Lee, M. (2015). The effects of self-myofascial release using a foam roll or roller massager on joint range of motion, muscle recovery, and performance: a systematic review. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10(6), 827–838.
2Pearcey, G., Bradbury-Squires, D., Kawamoto, J., Drinkwater, E., Behm, D., & Button, D. (2015). Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Journal of Athletic Training, 50(1), 5-13. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-50.1.01.
3Penney, S. (2013). Foam Rolling: Applying the Technique of Self-Myofascial Release. NASM.
4Rai, A. (2020). Foam Rolling. Kineticstep.