Myo means muscle and fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds muscles, groups of muscles, nerves, blood vessels etc.
So now we have understanding of the meaning of “myofascial release”–release of connective tissue that surrounds muscle tissue.
You might ask–why does it need to be released?
Bad posture and repetitive movements can create dysfunction within the connective tissue in the human body. The human body sees this as an injury.
As you know, when one injures themselves the body automatically begins the healing process. The healing process the body goes through as a consequence of bad posture and repetitive movements look like this:
1. Tissue trauma (bad posture – repetitive movements)
2. Inflammation of soft tissue
3. Muscle spasm
4. Inflexible adhesions within the myofascial system.
The above cycle repeats itself over and over again. As a consequence the normal length of the muscle tissue as well as the normal tension is changed.
Myofascial release is often used to to release the myofascial adhesions. When this technique is used this can help improve the muscle tissue’s ability to lengthen when one stretches.
Myofascial release can be performed directly by a licensed trained professional or it can be done by using instruments such as a foam foller, a ball or a hand held roller.
If you would like a straightforward explanation of this technique you can purchase NASM Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training through Wolter Kluwer Health – Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a massage soft tissue release technique that allows you to determine the correct position, amount of pressure and duration of the stretch. Its main purposes include reducing: Joint stiffness, Muscle tightness, Identifying tenderness (indicating poor circulation). It can also be used as a warm-up and a cool-down. By using your own body weight to roll on the round foam roll, you massage away restrictions to normal soft-tissue extensibility (flexibility) and improve your function; best of all, you can do it at home.
When I am telling my clients why myofascial release is important, one particular statement always works. Static stretches, such as bending down to touch your toes, only stretch the deep inner part of the muscle (golgi tendon organ, muscle spindle). But what about the outside of the muscle, the connective tissue that wraps around muscles (fascial tissue)? That’s where the foam roller is used ( myofascial release). Works every time, like a lightbulb goes off.
I use a simple illustration to explain this technique to my clients. I use a jump rope and tie it into a knot, I explain to them that this is an example of a tight muscle or spasm, and when we use the foam roller on these areas we can loosen the knots until we are back to our initial example of a jump rope before it was tied into a knot. This gives them a simple visual that works really well in my experiences.
I also have a mental illustration to help explain myofascial tension. Imagine your entire body is encased in a fishing net. When there is a snag or a “knot” part of the fishing net gets tangled. These tangles will then pull or yank on the rest of the net which can cause tension, pain, or discomfort in another area of the body. Massage and foam rolling can help to loosen the snags or knots in the fishing net.