Self myofascial release (SMR) is another term for self massage. Fascia is connective tissue that wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels in a web like structure of collagen fibres throughout the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascial system. Foam rollers can be used to massage the myofascia.
Over time muscle and fascia can become over-active and increase in density, causing pain and limited mobility. When incorporated into your training programme, foam rolling has the potential to assist in progressing movement patterns. Your body weight provides the pressure required to roll out pain, stiffness and even adhesions including scar tissue from overuse or past injuries. It allows the myofascia to optimally perform by enabling it to extend more freely.
SMR AND STRETCHING
Having a pliable, mobile body is crucial for performing movement of any kind. Flexibility is a key component of physical fitness and stretching is extremely important. However, although stretching lengthens the muscle, it will have little effect on dysfunctional patterns of movement caused by tension in the fascia. A foam roller applies pressure to the soft tissue, which stretching does not.
Decreases myofascial soreness
Corrects myofascial imbalances (caused by adhesions and scar tissue) therefore helping to prevent injuries
Decreases muscle stiffness (hypertonicity)
Relieves joint stress
Increases flexibility/extensibility of the myofascia
Increases joint range of motion
Increases neuromuscular efficiency: enables muscle, fascia and nervous system to function as one integrated unit
Enables the maintenance of normal myofascial length
Be warned – you are likely to experience varying degrees of discomfort when rolling, but the results really are worth it. Rolling can provide great benefit both before and after a workout.
Of course, nothing is going to beat a hands-on massage from a therapist, but foam rolling provides a daily, affordable alternative (see our shop for suppliers). The rollers are available in various sizes and densities, and just as with other parts of your fitness programme, it’s important to progress gradually. As with all exercise, good technique is crucial. Ask a professional for advice on correct form.