Saturday, April 6, 2013

Need A Roll?

Myofascial Release and Foam Rolling for Sore, Overworked Muscles

Ever leave the gym or walk away from a workout thinking you are so sore you can barely walk up the stairs to your home?  You’re not alone.  Many of us experience this feeling and sometimes it can be days before our muscles feel normal again.  One easy and quick way to alleviate some of that from happening is to take one or two minutes after your workout to perform some Self Myofascial Release to those sore achy muscles.  

Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique used by athletes and physical therapists to aid in recovery of muscles that are prone to being overactive. Myofascial release, also called "skin rolling," is often provided along with other treatments like massage, stretching, and joint mobilization and manipulation. The vast majority of registered massage therapists, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, and osteopathic physicians have training with myofascial release.

To define: Fascia is the soft tissue portion of the connective tissue in the muscle that provides support and protection. The fascia can become restricted due to overuse, trauma, and inactivity. Consequently, inflammation occurs and if it becomes bad enough the connective tissue can thicken, which results in pain and irritation, and additional inflammation.
The goal with myofascial release is to promote healthy superficial fascia, which is a layer of connective tissue that lies between your skin and your muscles. Over time, sub-optimal food choices, lack of sufficient rest and activity, and emotional stress can contribute to a buildup of metabolic waste throughout your body's superficial fascia. When this happens, your superficial fascia can develop restrictions that impede proper flow of nutrients and waste products between your skin, fascia, and muscles. This state can predispose your muscles and even underlying ligaments to strains and sprains.
Self-myofascial release techniques via foam roller are performed by rolling the foam roller under each muscle group until a tender area is found, and maintaining pressure by one’s own body mass on the tender area for 30–60 seconds.  A recent study was done to determine the effect of self-myofascial release (SMR) via foam roller application on knee extensor and knee joint range of motion. The study involved eleven healthy and physically active males. They were divided into two groups: The control group (non SMR) and an SMR group. Measurements were taken prior to the Self Myofascial Release.  Then, one minute trials (10 minutes total) of SMR of the quadriceps by use of foam roller was done. These measurements were also taken on the non SMR group.

 The results showed that nothing major occurred between either group for any of the neuromuscular variables (muscle force, rate of force development, and muscle activation). However, the foam roller group, experienced a significant increase in range of motion (ROM)….In a nutshell, this study suggests that Self Myofascial Release of the quadriceps, or potentially any other muscle for that matter, was an effective treatment method to increase range of motion without suffering muscle performance. Only two minutes of foam rolling displayed increases in the range of motion in the quadriceps muscles.

 This study is one of the first peer reviewed studies on SMR, and it proved what many bodybuilders and power lifters have been preaching for some time - foam rolling works. Not only can it help improve joint range of motion and overall muscle recovery, it does so without sacrificing muscle performance and strength. Perhaps the biggest benefits of Self Myofascial Release are that it can be done entirely by the individual and is very efficient in that it can take as little as 30-60 seconds to target the desired muscle group. To also add—this will also elevate your mood. Massage provides relaxation and a higher sense of well being.

 It is also linked with lower heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels. (Not confirmed by medical experts at this time however significant studies show)  Myofascial Release Massage has gained credence in the medical community. There are many benefits from this therapy. Besides making you feel good, it is thought to help reduce the discomfort of many medical conditions. As always, before working out or trying any new exercise routine, always check with your doctor first to help you decide which is right for you.  

If you have any questions or are not sure where to find or how to use a foam roller please don’t hesitate to ask.  See you around the gym!
Val Strunk is a personal trainer at Midtown Fitness Center in Putnam.  To ask Val your health and fitness question email