Massage is expensive. And your favorite place is always booked. But there is a reason why many top athletes massage every day: they improve recovery, aid healing and increase the mobility of your joints and muscles. Although most of us can’t massage as many times as we want, we can get some benefits by performing self-myofascial releases ourselves.
What is self-myofascial release?
Self-myofascial release, or SMR, is a type of self-massage that focuses on the adhesive, knot, or soft spot on the muscle — and the fascia that surrounds and envelops it-often using tools to bring about real change. The popular notion is that SMR is “dissociating” the muscle knot in the actual physical sense, but this is probably not the case. What you are doing is a neuromuscular response that reduces tenderness and allows better, more fluid movement through the affected tissues.
You are “educating” your nervous system when the tissue is pricked and the movement or movement begins so there is no tension and tightness. You are dulling the pain and clearing the movement pattern slate so you can go inside and place a new, better pattern.
How to do self-myofascial release in the right way
The way I see most people doing SMR is that they sit on a foam roller (or lacrosse ball, or whatever tool you are using) for an hour, exploring all their tissues, hitting every part of the body, and staying extremely thorough. Sounds nice, but it’s the wrong way. Basically, you don’t want to turn self-myofascial release into a full-fledged physical exercise, because you’re denying the real opportunity to present the exercise.
Mobility before training
SMR works best on the short-term horizon. When you hit a soft spot and it starts to feel better, you should work that tissue right away – especially under load. This helps to establish a healthy, good movement pattern. You are effectively clearing the movement pattern slate and then placing a higher one.
The thing is the effect SMR is passing. If you wait too long for a movement training after hitting an area, the “neuromuscular inhibiting effect” disappears, or at least diminishes.
Sit on the lacrosse ball, hit the foam roller, or whatever you want to apply, and then load the tissues as soon as you’re “free.” This will allow you to enter the types of open movements you have just started and start moving the tissues the way they are designed to move.
If you shrug your shoulders, immediately do some rows, pull-ups, pushups and / or presses. If you move your buttocks or calf, do some squats.
Do the movements that the tissues were blocking or “sticking” to, and start entering new, healthier patterns. There isn’t a lot of mandatory clinical research support for self-myofascial release and I think the primary reason is that people aren’t doing it properly. They are not “freeing” the tissue and loading it with resistance training to “cement” the type of advanced movement.
Stress release after a long day
It is also understandable to do SMR at rest, perhaps while you are watching TV or something else. Get down on the floor and make the otherwise “non-productive” time suddenly fruitful. It’s a great way to relax, an active form of meditation. I often do this after sunbathing: warm those tissues, make them more “flexible” and then release some light self-myofascial.
Do not tension
When you do real SMR, relax in it. Don’t get tense, even if it’s painful (and it will be painful at times). Do not shake hard. External manifestations of pain and discomfort will register with your nervous system. What you are trying to do here is reassure your body that you can handle the pain, the pain is not so bad and the tissues can start to feel better.
Focus on the tissues above and below the painful area
If your knee hurts, releasing the knee itself probably won’t help. If your calf hurts, massaging the calves can help, but not exactly where the calf hurts. Instead, focus on the tissues above and below the painful area. Keep rolling / loosening / massaging / scraping the tissues around the painful area, working your way up and down until you find the soft spot.
The best self-myofascial release tools and how to use them
A scraper is a metal tool like a dull blade that you can use to massage the fascia. First, use it with muscle fibers – “with grain” lengths, to “lengthen” the fascia. To make sure you’re going with the grain, look at the muscular physiological figure and look for the muscle you’re noticing. Next, scrape the muscle granules at an angle of 45 ° -90 and consider “extending” the fascia.
You can do superficial scraping or targeted scraping across the entire limb that focuses on individual muscles and muscle bundles. Don’t go Too Hard it shouldn’t hurt, but it can be uncomfortable. This scraper is a good one.
2. Lacrosse balls (or two)
Lacrosse balls are hard, dense, heavy balls the size of a tennis ball that you can use to identify hard-to-reach tissues. Specific points of the hamstrings, TFL, glutes, pecs, and thoracic spine respond well to the lacrosse ball. They offer more direct, targeted pressure and can really go deeper there. Tape the two balls together to provide more stability and hit the tissue from different angles.
3. Foam roller
A foam roller is a blunt and wide SMR device. It can hit large parts of the tissues. You can adjust the resistance by placing as much or as little of your weight on the roller.
Explore the range of motion as you roll. When you find a tight, soft spot in your quad, stay in that place, for example. Then stretch and flex your knees through the full range of motion. If you are on the scene with zero movement through the knees, this seems to make foam rolling more effective.
4. Theragun or Hyperis massage gun
Both Theragun and HyperVolt devices are mechanical percussive massage devices that effectively vibrate against your tissues.
These can help improve the range of motion, increase mobility and create the possibility of adopting the most effective pre-workout or a new motor pattern – just like the other tools listed here. However, you must be careful. These can be powerful small tools, and I know that a cyclist is giving himself rhabdomyolysis through excessive use. Use a small amount of it and do not leave it on a single tissue for more than a minute.
5. Massage the cane
The cane is bent with proper ergonomics to hit areas where you may have difficulty reaching otherwise, such as the back, neck and shoulders. Also nice is the double dense ball at one end, which you can use like two lacrosse balls taped together. This massage cane is a good one.
6. Voodoo Floss Band
These are compressive wraps that apply pressure to tight tissues and help increase (and thus heal) blood flow to those areas. If your knees feel tense and uncomfortable while squatting, for example, you can bend the quadriceps just above the knee, then squat. Or if you have pain in the elbow, wrap it above or below the elbow and then practice bending and extending. After a few sets of voodoo flushing, remove the bands and try the movement again. It should feel better than before treatment.
7. MobilityWOD Battlestar Kit
This kit of massaging rollers is a great investment if you want to do a really thorough SMR. Designed by Kelly Starrate of MobilityWOD / Ready State, this collection will help you hit almost every tissue you can expect to reach.
8. Your elbows
If you don’t have anything, digging soft spots using your own elbows can work quite well. You are obviously limited in what tissue your elbow can reach, but you can be quite creative.
What should I use for self myofacial release?
For me, I’m not a big fan of self-myofascial release. I think frequent movement, walking a lot, being immersed in the cold, usually reducing stress, and never doing extra work in the gym are the keys to my good movement and pain-free tissues. If I were still competing in high endurance sports, I would probably change my tune and fill my closet with every tool under the sun – or massage every day.
I like voodoo bands and scrapers and I put a lacrosse ball or two to work my glutes, hips or thoracic spine when I need to.
What about you, folks? Ever tried self-myofascial liberation? What tools do you want to use?
Take care, everyone.
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