Myofascial Release. What is it? Who needs it? and How to start?

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You may be hearing a lot about myofascial release lately but it has been around since the 1960s. John F. Barnes, P.T. and founder of John F. Barnes’ Myofascial Release Approach®, and one of the first therapists to develop educational material and programs around the subject matter describes myofascial release as,

“a safe and very effective hands-on technique that involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.”

Have you ever gotten a massage and the therapist stays on one pressure point until you think you might die from the pain? Well, this is a self-induced version of what it feels like to perform a myofascial release on your body. It may sound painful but remember the amazing feeling of release and calmness that settles over your body after all that pain? That is also what myofascial release provides.

The everyday use of our muscles can cause the body’s fascia to restrict or freeze. Applying pressure over a period of time to a certain area of the body allows the fascia to return to normal functioning. This return to normal also has the added benefit of allowing your body to feel less pain, increase performance, improve blood and lymphatic circulation, and your body will be able to handle an increased load in stress better than before.

Now, this all may sound too good to be true but the good thing is it isn’t!

Myofascial release is available and accessible to everyone. Whether you are a bodybuilder, cyclist, or a parent on the go, you can benefit from regular myofascial release work. It is easy, inexpensive, and can even be done in whatever amount of time or space you have access to.

Have you ever seen a person rubbing their back up and down a door frame, column, or tree? Well while they may look a bit like Yogi Bear they really do have the bare necessities needed to begin myofascial release.

First, let’s begin by defining fascia. Anatomytrains.com does it best by saying, “Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. It is all the collagenous-based soft-tissues in the body, including the cells that create and maintain that network of extra-cellular matrix (ECM). Fascia is a sheth for every cell, organ, muscle in the body.

 

In the currently health and fitness world there are three major types of myofascial release: self, foam, and ball. We will break down each category so that you can decide which type is right for you.

Self Myofascial Release:

Is just as it sounds, you are in control of the pressure, duration, and location of where you want to work. By using your hands you are able to pinpoint very specific locations for release. This technique is great for first-time releasers as it allows you not only to feel how your fascia, muscles, and nerves are reacting to the release but it also allows to feel what is going on under your skin. Whether your muscles feel smooth, leather, or if you can feel scar tissue that needs attention.

Foam Rolling as Myofascial Release:

Foam rolling used to be viewed as something only athletes did. However, now foam rolling is viewed as appropriate from everyone from elite athletes to the occasional exerciser. The first step to this type of myofascial release technique is to purchase a foam roller. The density and firmness of the roller. Too soft and you won’t access the depth of fascia that you want to work on and too hard and it will be too painful to perform properly.

Once you have selected your foam roller start playing. Find a firm surface and wear clothes that fit your body, (you don’t want the roller catching your clothing) then decide on a part of your body that seems tense. Place the foam roller between that body part and the floor and then gingerly begin to add weight by pressing your body toward the floor and roll back and forth or side to side. It is that easy. If you find a place that feels really good stay there for a while.

Successful myofascial release is dependent on listening to your body and what it needs. Allow yourself time to work into places that may be uncomfortable and then explore places that you think hold no tension. See what your body needs and roll there.

Ball Myofascial Release:

Using a ball takes myofascial release up a notch. Its size and shape allow specific targeting of certain “knots” or fascia. Most people use the ball for upper body, neck, and back work. However, there are great uses for it on your feet, hands, and hips.

Paul Ingraham, Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org explains how the muscles and fascia respond to use of a ball in myofascial release work, “the pressure (that placing body weight on a ball causes) creates a small, local stretch that resolves the spasm just like stretching to relieve a larger spasm, and/or the pressure literally squeezes stagnant tissue fluids out of the area.”

I like to think of myofascial release as an amazing way to help your body function at optimal performance. Try it out and see how you think of it!

Photo Credits: Sharon Karam

 

To learn more about the body’s fascia and myofascial release visit:

 

Fascia

https://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/the-top-5-ways-fascia-matters-to-athletes

https://www.myofascialrelease.com/

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