Self Myofascial Release (SMR)
What is it? A flexibility technique aimed at removing restrictions in the myofascia: the connective tissue that wraps in and around muscle fibers, bundles them together, separates them from one another and runs head to toe as a giant network throughout the body
Why do you do it? The mysofascia develops adhesions (or scar tissue) based on our movement patterns, exercise habits, injuries, repetitive movement, lack of movement, etc. These adhesions restrict the motion of the fascia and therefore the muscles they impact, and can lead to pain and movement compensation. SMR is important to the health of the myofascia and your entire movement system. Muscles will not be as effective in their roles if we ignore the health of fascia.
How does it work? SMR DOES NOT lengthen tissue like static stretching does. It reduces tension and restriction points along the myofascial network, improving overall motion. The “knots” do not go away, they are better lined up along the fascia and allow more motion by the act of applying direct pressure. The direct pressure also flips “switches” in your nervous system that allow tissue to relax. This greatly impacts the health of the movement system.
How do I do it? You can perform SMR on lengthened and shortened muscles, remember it does not lengthen tissue, but removes restriction points. Both underactive/lengthened tissue and overactive/shortened tissue can benefit. If using a foam roller, stick, etc.: roll along to find tender points then stay on them for 20-30+ seconds until they release or “melt”. Be careful not to use the tool as a “rolling pin” as this may actually irritate tissue (think of punching a bruise and how that would feel to irritate already irritated tissure). If you will roll back and forth as is sometimes ok (such as the shoulder blades and some applications of the stick), roll slowly about an inch per second. Do not proceed if rolling causes abnormal pain or numbness and tingling. A certain amount of discomfort is to be expected.
What is it? A flexibility technique aimed at lengthening tissue you know to be overactive and shortened based on a movement assessment. Be sure to conduct an assessment to determine the appropriate flexibility program. Just because a muscle “feels tight” doesn’t always mean it’s shortened.
Why do you do it? Shortened and overactive muscles produce compensated motion and pull joints out of balance. This causes improper movement, pain, restriction and many times eventual injury. The body will also stop moving ideally and will just move to get from point A to point B, and not do so with regard to proper, safe or efficient movement. This also impacts the body’s ability to produce force, reduce force and stabilize force. A balanced body is a more stable body, a more stable body is stronger, more powerful and just moves better,
How does it work? Placing muscle in a lengthened position and holding it there will cause the Golgi Tendon Organ to override the contractile tension produced by the Muscle Spindle and can get the muscle to calm down and allow the length to be achieved. Doing this over time will allow the joint to acheive a more ideal range of motion and the health of the joint to be improved. Along with restoring the muscles around it to more optimal lengths.
How do I do it? Only stretch to a point of tension, NOT pain. Hold the position for at least 20 seconds. Focus on muscles you know to be short based on your movement assessments prior to a workout. For a cool-down, static stretch whatever feels good and addresses compensations.
Arlene Alpuerto, MS, NASM-CPT,CES