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Is Myofascial Self-Massage Effective?

Self Myofascial Release Techniques, SMRT, are definitely not a new thing, but they are becoming more and more popular among both athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

Both practitioners of alternative and allopathic medicine have begun to use myofascial release massage techniques to rehabilitate a variety of injuries as well as reduce the problem of chronic pain.

Some professionals claim there is a long list of benefits from curing the problem of tendonitis to relieving individuals of symptoms of IBS. While some of these claims may or may not be true, many people can definitely benefit from this therapy.

It is very important that you take some time to understand two very important terms in order to appreciate how and why these techniques have a favorable effect on the body. Those words are:

  • Fascia
  • Trigger Points

You should take some time to learn about both of these before you try any Myofascial Release Self-Massage techniques.

What is Fascia?

First of all, what is fascia? Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds your bones, joints, and muscles and gives both protection and support to your body. The fascia consists of 3 layers:

  • Superficial
  • Deep
  • Subserous

You should also know that fascia is just 1 of the 3 types of connective tissue in the body. The others are tendons and ligaments. Also, fascia extends from the top of your head to the tip of your toes without stopping.

Typically, fascia is thought of as having a passive role in the body. It transmits mechanical tension generated by external forces or muscle activity. More recently, studies have shown that fascia may actually be able to contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and therefore influence the dynamics of the musculoskeletal system.

If this thought is verified by research in the future, changes in the structure or tone of fascia would have some serious implications for athletic movements and performance. However, despite this research, trigger points within this dense connective tissue is considered to be related to injuries.

 How to Do a Myofascial Release Self-Massage

What are Trigger Points?

A trigger point is an area of muscle that is painful to the touch and is characterized by taut bands. Tissues can become tough, knotted, and thick and can occur in the bursa, fat pads, muscles, and muscle/tendon junctions. In some cases, the trigger point can also have some inflammation. If trigger points remain too long, the healthy fascia could be replaced with immovable scar tissue.

It has been thought that trigger points could contribute to various sports injuries from basic cramps to much more serious tendon and even muscle tears. This thought is that the trigger points actually compromise the tissue structure that they’re located in, which places a much greater strain on the other tissues that must make up for this weakness. This strain breaks down the other tissues and the downward spiral continues.

According to health professionals, these trigger points in the fascia actually alter or even restrict the motion of a joint, which also causes a change in normal neural feedback to the central nervous system. Eventually, your muscles will become much weaker and less efficient, which causes chronic pain, fatigue, injury, and even a reduction in efficiency of motor skill performance.

Causes of Trigger Points

There are several things that are thought to cause trigger points to form. First of all, there’s poor posture or movement, training too much/too hard, not resting between training sessions, physical trauma, and possibly problems with nutrition.

Using Myofascial Release Self-Massage techniques can help you to alleviate those trigger points. These SMRTs are actually very effective at relieving myofascial pain disorders- though, the effectiveness studies have focused more on treatments done by a therapist rather than self-treatment.

Myofascial Release Techniques

Following are some myofascial release exercises. In order to complete them, you need a foam roll which you can find anywhere that sells physical therapy or sports medicine supplies.

Adductor Myofascial Release Self-Massage

For this one, you will want to extend your thigh and then place the foam roll in your groin area while lying face down on the floor. You will want to be very cautious when rolling near the adductor complex near your pelvis. If you find a tender point, you should stop rolling and rest there until the pain decrease by about 75 percent.

Hamstring Myofascial Release Self- Massage

For this exercise, you’ll want to place your hamstrings on the roll with your hips unsupported. You can cross your feet so that only one leg is on the roll at one time. Roll from your knee toward your hip. If you find a tender point, stop rolling and rest there until the pain decreases by 75 percent.

Quadriceps Myofascial Release Self-Massage

Lie face down on the floor with your quadriceps on the roll. You should maintain correct control of your core in order to prevent your lower back from compensating for this movement. Roll from your pelvic bone down to your knee. If you locate a tender point, stop rolling and rest there until the pain had lowered by 75 percent.

Iliotibial Band Myofascial Release Self-Massage

For this exercise, you will want to lie down on your side on the roll. Your bottom leg will be raised slightly off the floor. Keep your head in the neutral position, with your ears in alignment with your shoulders. This exercise should be done in moderation, as it can be painful for many people. You will roll just below your hip joint down the outside thigh to your knee. As before, if you locate a tender point, you’ll stop rolling and rest on that point until the pain has subsided by 75 percent.

Upper Back Myofascial Release Self-Massage

For this exercise, place your hands behind your head or wrap your arms around your chest to get the shoulder blades across the thoracic wall. Raise your hips until they are unsupported and stabilize your head in the neutral position. Roll your mid-back on the foam roll. If you find a tender point, stop and rest there until the pain has decreased by 75 percent.

Guidelines for Myofascial Release Self-Massage

  • You will want to spend about one to two minutes per technique on each side of your body.
  • When you find a trigger point, hold it for thirty to forty-five seconds.
  • Keep the muscles in your abdomen tight, as this will provide some stability to your lumbar-pelvic-hip complex while rolling on the foam roll.
  • Breathe slowly- this will help to reduce any tension that results from discomfort.
  • Complete these Myofascial Release Self-Massage exercises one or two times every day.

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