Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) – Health & Training Benefits
Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is a growing trend among all levels of athletes around the world. Many more people everyday are turning to their foam rollers, mobility and recovery tools for help with musculoskeletal challenges than ever before. Want to know why?… Well, there are several reasons this trend continues. In a nutshell, athletes are having reduced muscle soreness, improved flexibility, faster recovery time and increased muscular force output following consistent SMR practice and application. (1-7) The reasons that these physical improvements occur are due to physiological responses from SMR. Stimulation of blood flow, scar tissue adhesion removal and muscle tissue alignment following SMR all can help to reduce injury prevalence and enhance general physical performance. (4)
Massage aka Soft Tissue Mobilization (STM) and its variety of forms, have been clinically proven for quite some time to stimulate blood flow. Stimulating blood flow helps to improve different mechanisms that assist muscle tissue warm-up for activity and to cool down, recover and heal afterwards. (2) Lets start with the warm-up, seeing how this is what we do first. When you compress, roll and massage muscle tissue. Blood flow is encouraged to move and with this movement, blood flow is more readily available to the muscle tissue. Allowing for more nutrients and oxygen to be distributed by the blood and become available for use by the muscles. (1)
This increase in access to nutrients and oxygen gives the muscles several other physiological advantages to improve physical energy output, power and resilience. (3, 5) In a study done by Peacock et al. (2014) examiners tested the effects of foam rolling used in conjunction with a dynamic warm up series of exercises. Peacock et al. found that foam rolling improved power, strength, agility and speed when compared to just the dynamic warm up by itself. Another study done by Halperin et al. (2014) described the use of self massage techniques to increase maximal voluntary muscle contraction based on Electromyography (EMG) readings compared to only static stretching done for warm up.
Along with enhancements to muscle function, STM and SMR provide assistance with removal of lactate (“lactic acid”) and other cellular byproducts from muscle micro-trauma after use. This mechanism of myofascial rehabilitation works to speed up recovery and reduce pain levels by influencing the degree of damage from local inflammation to the muscle group. (7) Following SMR athletes will basically have less effects from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) depending on the therapeutic activities performed and their parameters. (4) This process allows the athlete to feel physically better the next day or two after the training session.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, SMR helps to improve general flexibility and joint range of motion. Several experimental studies have connected SMR with increased flexibility. Vigotsky et al. (2015) observed increases in hip extension of around 2 degrees measured via the Thomas test following two 60 second sets of foam rolling. Halperin et al. (2014) found improvements in ankle ROM immediately and 10 min after three sets of 30 seconds of plantar flexor rolling massage. Sullivan et al. (2013) found increases in hamstrings range of motion with the sit-and-reach test which were preceded by 10-15 second sets of rolling massage. The examples of how much SMR can improve athletic performance are out there but each athlete must find the right program for themselves.
“With the evolution of the strength and conditioning field, foam rolling SMR has emerged as an additional component to an athlete’s warm-up.” (5) We hope that you learn from these preparation and recovery principles and adopt your own unique SMR regime. Continue to progress your SMR practice at your own pace and implement it into your daily routine.
1. Connolly DA, Sayers SP, McHugh MP. Treatment and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness. J. Strength Cond. Res. 2003; 17: 197–208.
2. Crane, J.D., Ogborn, D.L., Cupido, C., Melos, S., Hubbord, A., Bourgeois, J.M. & Tarnopolsky, M.A. Massage Therapy attenuates inflammatory signaling after exercise-induced muscle damage. Science Translational Medicine. 2012; 4(119): 1-8.
3. Halperin, I., Aboodarda, S.J., Button, D.C., Andersen, L.L., and Behm, D.G. Roller massager improves range of motion of plantar flexor muscles without subsequent decreases in force parameters. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 9: 92–102.
4. Jay K., Sundstrup E., Sondergaard S.D., et al. Specific and cross over effects of massager for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 9: 82–91.
5. MacDonald GZ, Button DC, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG. Foam rolling as a recovery tool after an intense bout of physical activity. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 2014; 46: 131–42.
6. Peacock, C. A., Krein, D.D., Silver, T.A., Sanders, G.J. and Von Carlowitz, K.A. An acute bout of Self-Myofascial Release in the form of foam rolling improves performance testing. Int J Exerc Sci. 2014; 7(3): 202–211.
7. Sullivan, K.M., Silvey, D.B.J., Button, D.C., and Behm, D.G. Roller-massager application to the hamstrings increases sit-and-reach range of motion within five to ten seconds without performance impairments. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2013; 8: 228–236.
5 Common Areas of Pain Office Workers Face From Sitting at the Computer and How to Fix them.
Most office workers have common musculoskeletal issues that develop over time. Muscle tension in our Back/Neck, Legs, Feet, Shoulders and Wrists/Hands builds up and can create tendinitis, arthritic joints, painful soft tissue dysfunction and affect work performance. A study by Lingard et al. (2014) found that a combination of frequent musculoskeletal pain and stress had the highest risk for reporting decreased work performance. (1) Luckily, muscle tension and stress can be alleviated by using self massage tools due to their ability to increase blood flow, reduce scar tissue adhesions and assist alignment of muscle tissue. (2)
Lets start with the Back Extensor muscles which are long muscles that run mostly straight up your spine. Their purpose is to hold your spine up erect and in its neutral postion. While you sit or do other forms of labor these muscles muscles are constantly working, especially if you sit, stand or move with poor posture. General muscle tension increases overtime and can lead to back strains and disc degeneration. Watch the video below for tips on how to release your back muscle tension.
LEGS – QUADS/CALVES
Next up are the quads and calves which get extra tight from sitting for hours in a fixed position. When we sit, what we don’t realize is that our muscles are still working to support our spine and posture. This is ultimately what causes increased muscle tension your legs. And why when we rise up from our chairs after sitting more than 30 minutes we feel stiff. Lets take a look at some leg massage techniques to help with this.
Computer work and tedious repetitive tasks take their toll on our hands. Continuous finer movements done while typing or other office duties use both the bigger muscles located in our forearms and smaller intrinsic muscles in our hands. As the muscles get tired and overworked over time, this can lead to tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Massage and pressure point therapy assist in relieving the strain on your hands, wrist and forearms.
Like we mentioned above sitting, standing or walking too long can cause muscle tension everywhere, even in your feet. Most of us don’t often realize that the position we keep are feet in while we work slowly causes excessive shortening of the muscles. Once the muscle is in a shortened state it cannot function well and becomes problematic resulting strains, sprains, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis. Rolling on your feet can easily be done at work under your desk.
So many of our job duties consist of continuous shoulder movements. Even simple computer tasks result in the muscles supporting the shoulder girdle to be active while we work. Over time this accumulates tension in our neck, mid-back and can also create elbow instability. In order to remain relatively pain free, muscle tension around the shoulder and shoulder blade (scapula) needs to be released using therapeutic self care.
Practicing self care with massage, rolling and pressure point therapy has many benefits for not only the office worker but for many others as well. We want to encourage everyone to develop a self massage program of their own and implement it into their daily lives. Help yourself prevent any future aches and pains by doing some simple techniques at your desk.
1. Lingard, A., Larsman, P., Hadzibajramovic, G. & Ahlborg, G. The influence of perceived stress and musculoskeletal pain on work performance and work ability in Swedish health care workers. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. May 2014, Volume 87, Issue 4, pp 373–379
2. Jay K., Sundstrup E., Sondergaard S.D., et al. Specific and cross over effects of massager for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. Int. J. Sports Phys. Ther. 2014; 9: 82–91.