Foam Rolling and Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)
In recent years foam rollers and SMR (self-myofascial release) have become increasingly more popular. This is probably due to more products becoming available from foam rollers to massage balls. It is important that the correct exercises are being performed which will reduce muscle soreness and tight spots in our muscles. If the exercises are done incorrectly it could result in pain, discomfort and ultimately injury.
A layer of fascia covers every structure in the body, it allows everything to run smoothly without any friction. Overstress and overuse of our muscles can cause layers of fascia to get tears in them. Adhesions of fascia often form, when the layers of torn fascia do not heal, this prevents our muscles from performing to their optimal potential. This means that the range of motion around a joint is restricted, therefore normal neural feedback and neuromuscular efficiency is compromised. When pressure is applied to these adhesions, they are released and muscles can return to working to their optimal potential, improving neuromuscular efficiency. This is where foam rolling (SMR) and similar exercises are used to apply this pressure to the tight spots or adhesions.
Other benefits of SMR
- Reduces soreness from training
- Corrects muscle imbalances
- Improves joint range of motion
- Improves neuromuscular efficiency
- Increases flexibility
- Increases blood flow and therefore muscle recovery
- Gets rid of tight spots and knots
- Assists in injury prevention
- De-stresses your body
How does it work?
Two neural receptors , the muscle spindle and the golgi tendon organ, located in the skeletal muscle tissue are involved in this process. Muscle spindles record changes in fiber length and rate of change to the Central Nervous System (CNS). This triggers the myostatic stretch reflex, shortening muscle tissue, changes normal length –tension relationship and can induce pain. The Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) are sensitive to change in tension and rate of tension change. When the GTO’s are stimulated past a certain threshold the muscle spindle activity is inhibited and muscular tension decreases (called autogenic inhibition). This reduction in muscle tension decreases pain and re-balances normal muscle length –tension relationships, improving overall muscular function.
- Roll on the foam roller/ball until you find a trigger point. (you’ll know as it will hurt when you find one!)
- Rest on the foam roller at this trigger point for 30-45 seconds. This will stimulate the GTO and inhibit the muscle spindles reducing muscular tension.
- Do not continue to roll once you find a trigger point as it will activate the muscle spindles, increasing tightness and pain.
- Maintain a strong core throughout to provide stability to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex during rolling.
- Perform SMR exercises 1-2 times daily where necessary
- Drink plenty of water following a SMR session.
My favourite SMR exercise is for the IT Band. If you are a regular runner then you may find that you have experienced ‘runners knee’ which is caused by a tightening in your Iliotibial band (IT Band). This band of fascia runs on the outer side of your leg from your knee to your pelvis. Massaging and rolling this area can decrease any tightness and prevent future injuries.