Self-Myofascial Release and Foam Rolling – Become Your Own Massage Therapist

Foam Roller and TheracaneWhether you work out all the time or just sleep funny one night, you are eventually going to get muscle tension and trigger points. Unfortunately, not everyone has friends that are willing to massage them or the money to pay for a massage therapist. So what is the poor tense person to do? Here is where self-myofascial release comes into play.

Self-myofascial release is simply massaging yourself using a foam roller or other device to get out muscle adhesions. Over time, repetitive behaviors or static postures (such as sitting at a computer desk all day) can cause certain muscles to tighten up and inhibit the proper muscle function. Likewise, certain exercises or improper training can cause inflammation, adhesions, and eventually pain.

The goal of self-myofascial release is to apply gentle force to an adhesion and allow the elastic muscle fibers to be altered from a bundled position into a straighter alignment with the direction of the muscle or fascia. In addition, this process stimulates the Golgi tendon organ which is located at the point where the muscle and tendon meet. The Golgi tendon organ is sensitive to changes in muscular tension and when it is stimulated, it inhibits your muscle spindles that are located in that same muscle. Muscle spindles are sensitive to muscle length, and will cause a muscle contraction when they are activated. So since we are inhibiting the muscle spindle, this allows the muscle to relax and consequently easier to stretch and lengthen. All this allows for reduced healing time, reduced pain, reduced injuries, and improved joint range of motion.

There are several tools that you can acquire to complete this job.

  • Hard to semi hard ball (Golf, racquet, tennis)
  • Theracane
  • Foam roller

With all these tools, you are going to move them around your body until you find a tender spot. These tender spots are adhesions in your muscle/fascia. Apply gentle to medium pressure for at least 20-30 seconds. There is usually some mild pain associated with massaging these “knots” out. Focus on breathing and try to mentally relax the muscle you are working on.   This should allow the knot to release itself more easily.

The hard ball works great to massage the bottom of your foot or to pinpoint knots on your glutes. The theracane works great for your neck, back, and shoulders, and the foam roller works great for your legs and back. If you are creative enough, you can use one of these tools for all your needs.

I would recommend foam rolling for 5 – 10 minutes as part of your normal warmup and cool down, and follow it up with a light static to active stretch. This routine will keep muscles their proper lengths so proper mechanics can always be preformed by your body.

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