Self Myofascial Release for Seniors

By IDEA Authors
Apr 20, 2015

Did you know it’s important to take care of the fascia—or connective tissue—in your body? The health of connective tissue is a serious concern for older people, as movement restrictions can make it hard for them to perform simple activities of daily living. The condition of our connective tissue depends on two factors—how old we are and what we have done in our lives to keep our tissue healthy, hydrated and flexible.

While you can’t do anything about your age, you can improve your fascia and range of motion through a technique called self myofascial release (SMR). Mia Bremer, owner of Ablebodies LLC and a FallProof!™ master trainer, talks about fascia and how you can safely improve the hydration and flexibility of your fascia to improve the quality of your life.

More About Fascia

Fascia is a “renewable tissue that is made up of nearly 70%–80% water,” says Sue Hitzmann, creator of the MELT Method® of self myofascial release. Hitzmann suggests that dehydration of the fascia may be at the root of chronic pain, fatigue, bloating, headaches, muscle aches and even some psychological disorders.

What Can Help

SMR techniques combine pressure and movement. SMR is often done with a foam roller or pliable ball that can be moved across the body to help “release” the myofascial tissue below the skin. Older adults with fragile tissue have more potential for injury, so with them it is best to favor lighter pressure over a wider contact area and use a soft foam roller.

Applying too much pressure causes muscle contractions that restrict the effectiveness of SMR, according to Dana Rutt, a certified sports massage therapist at Podium Sports Therapy Massage in Minnetonka, Minnesota. The key is applying just enough pressure—similar to the amount used when kneading bread—so the muscle remains pliable, and making sure movements are slow and controlled.

SMR Exercises

Recent research found that foam-rolling a muscle or muscle group prior to static stretching increased participants’ flexibility better than static stretching alone, SMR alone or no intervention (Mohr, Long & Goad 2014). Expanding on this idea, findings from another study have suggested that dynamic stretching—which includes rotational movements—is most effective (Schleip & Müeller 2013).

Good places to begin doing SMR are the hands and feet. Tightness in the feet and hands may be the source of pain in the knees and hips or shoulders and neck.

SMR EXERCISES

Try these exercises to get a feel for the benefits of SMR. You can use mini balls or pinky balls (get at www.OPTP.com) to do them. You can also use a tennis ball but not a golf ball because it is too hard.

HAND RELEASE

This exercise addresses arthritis pain in the fingers and wrist.

PART 1

  • Place right hand, palm down, on malleable ball supported on table.
  • Press hand onto ball; you can use left hand to increase pressure.
  • Lift and splay fingers and hold 4 seconds, then gently close fingers around ball.
  • Repeat 4 times.

Part 2

  • Gently roll ball across top of right hand, fingers splayed, from wristand over and between each finger.
  • Repeat sequence on left hand.
  • Follow with straight-arm wrist extension, flexion and rotation.

FOOT RELEASE

This exercise addresses ankle range of motion, plantar fasciitis and foot pain.

Part 1

  • Roll arch of right foot across ball from front to back.
  • Repeat 4 times from medial to lateral arch.
  • Lean arms and torso across thigh to increase pressure
  • Repeat with left foot.

Part 2

  • Place ball behind toes under ball of right foot.
  • Press and curl toes down and around ball; hold 4 seconds.
  • ress again while lifting toes up and out; hold 4 seconds.
  • Repeat 4 times.
  • Follow with plantar flexion and dorsiflexion.
  • Repeat with left foot.

References

Mohr, A.R., Long, B.C., & Goad, C.L. 2014. Foam rolling and static stretching on passive hip flexion range of motion. Journal of Sports Rehabilitation, epub ahead of print.

Schleip, R., & Müller, D.G. 2013. Training principles for fascial connective tissues: Scientific foundation and suggested practical applications. Journal of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 17 (1), 103-15.

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