In general, myofascial release is a type of soft tissue therapy that can help to increase flexibility, circulation and range of motion. It can also help to relieve pain and improve muscle function.
More specifically, myofascial release can benefit the majority of fitness program participants by helping to work out 'muscle knots'. Muscle knots, or myofascial trigger points, can cause pain, discomfort and decrease performance and range of motion. We'll cover muscle knots in more detail later, but first we will explain more about myofascia.
WHAT IS MYOFASCIA?
Fascia is part of the connective tissue that provides support for the structures of the body. Myo (from the Greek for muscle) and fascia combine to form the term myofascia, which describes the connective tissue that supports and protects our muscles. In a normal healthy state myofascia has a flexible net like structure that is relaxed and soft. Healthy myofascia moves without restriction. When it becomes damaged it can become tight and cause a number of problems including pain and restriction of motion.
WHAT CAUSES MUSCLE KNOTS?
No one knows the exact cause/s of myofacial trigger points. However, research suggests links between myofascial trigger points and poor posture, over training, injury, nutritional imbalance, and inadequate rest. Many experts suggest that muscle knots can change the function and movement of muscles around the joints causing premature fatigue, pain and injury, as well as less efficient motor skill performance.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
Self myofascial release is possible using free or relatively inexpensive tools. Often a tennis ball, a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, or "The Stick™" can work well in releasing muscle knots. It's important to be careful to only apply myofascial release pressure to muscle and not to bones and joints. It is also important to seek a physicians advice especially if you suffer from an injury or disease that may be complicated by self myofascial release.
Whichever myofascial release tool you choose, you will want to apply deep, but not painful, pressure to the effected muscles. Spend about 1 -2 minutes on each and linger about 30 to 45 seconds when you encounter muscle knots.
Keep your core muscle engaged to support your back. Remember to breathe throughout. Stop immediately if you feel nausea or dizziness. Myofascial release works best when done regularly, so you can make it part of your daily routine.
You can refer to this excellent set of foam roller exercises in an article published on the web by about.com: Foam Roller Exercises for Easing Tight Muscles. Remember, at N.E.W You Systems we believe all excersise routines should be fun and functional. If you would like to get rolling (pun intented) with self myofascial release you can contact us for a free consultation and introductory lesson.