Updated: Aug 9, 2021
For years we have been directed to stay cardiovascularly fit, perform resistance and core strength exercises and stretch regularly. Always those 3! In comes spinning, CrossFit, Yoga, Pilates, lots of other options. Great! You are consistent! You have started to exercise regularly or maybe you are gearing up for the New Year! But once and awhile your knee or some other body part gets cranky. You are stiff or you might even have pain. Many of us blame the activity and maybe even start excluding activities you have enjoyed in the past. Don’t throw in the towel until you consider a 4th component to an exercise routine: Myofascial Release. Myofascial release is defined as a type of soft tissue therapy used to release physically restricted musculoskeletal groups.
If we continue daily life and exercise with these restrictions it can lead to more restriction, pain and long term damage to joints. Fascia is the sheet or band of fibrous connective tissue enveloping, separating and binding together muscles, organs and other soft structures of the body. MR is used to break up adhesions or knots of the fascia and the tissue around it to improve flexibility, joint range of motion and often reduce pain and soreness. Our movement tendencies and muscle strength and flexibility imbalances amongst other things can contribute to these restrictions. Massage therapists and some physical therapists perform MR techniques including massage and trigger point therapy techniques. In the last 15 years, tools have been developed to allow us to perform this type of release therapy on ourselves. Familiar inexpensive tools one can use for “self” myofascial release (SMR) include a foam roller, “the stick”, tennis balls and a variety of other balls and gadgets of various densities and sizes. Familiar tools one can use for “self” myofascial release include a foam roller, “the stick”, tennis balls and a variety of other balls and gadgets of various densities and sizes.
I am a firm believer that MR helps reduce stiffness and pain, improves muscle strength and mobility balance, improves performance and is a huge help in our quest to stand up straighter. I ask all my clients do MR exercises at home with their foam roller or other MR tool and I ask most clients to perform 4-8 MR exercises before their workout sessions with me. Another requirement is that they BREATHE through the discomfort as they roll/massage on the foam roller or other tool. Conscious breathing should accompany all MR therapy for the most success. Getting rid of knots will make a muscle more available for activation and stretch in the various movements we go through during our workouts. Why would you want to start your workouts lopsided with your left quad or IT band cranky or knotted and the right quad just fine? What will your squats look like? Or if your issue is tight hip flexors then trigger point work prior to a stretch has been demonstrated to improve range of motion in the stretch that follows. We all want to benefit from our time investment in our workouts so why not spend 5-10 minutes using MR several times/week, feel better and improve your workouts? I have included a few links to get you started and an Amazon link to purchase a handy travel stick I regularly recommend to clients and colleagues. And don’t forget to breathe!!