June 07, 2010

Self Myofascial Release Techniques

Inspired my my new self care tool that arrived this week!

By performing Self-Myofascial Release techniques on a simple piece of foam, you can improve flexibility, function, performance, and reduce injuries. Your own body weight is used to roll on the round foam roll, massaging away restrictions to normal soft-tissue extensibility.

For the health and fitness professional to understand how this “magical” foam roll does all that, a basic understanding of the kinetic chain must be acknowledged.  The kinetic chain is made up of the soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia), neural system (nerves and CNS), and articular system (joints)6.  The kinetic chain works as an integrated functional unit.  All components of the kinetic chain exist interdependently.  If one segment is not functioning efficiently, then the other components must compensate, leading to tissue overload, fatigue, faulty movement patterns. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved.  Because of muscle restriction (tightness, soft tissue adhesions, and neural-hyperactivity), joint motion is altered, thus changing normal neural feedback to the CNS (central nervous system).  Ultimately, neuromuscular efficiency is compromised , which leads to poor movement patterns, inducing remature fatigue and causing injury.  The SMFR (Self-Myofascial Release) Program helps your clients improve muscular balance and performance.


    * Correct muscle imbalances
    * ↑ Joint range of motion
    * ↓ Muscle soreness & relieve joint stress
    * ↓ Neuromuscular hypertonicity
    * ↑ Extensibility of musculotendinous junction
    * ↑ Neuromuscular efficiency
    * Maintain normal functional muscular length


A simple review of neuromuscular anatomy is required to apply the neurophysiological concepts.  Two basic neural receptors are located in skeletal muscle tissue.  These receptors are the muscle spindle and the golgi tendon organ.  Muscle Spindles are located parallel to the muscle fibers.  They record changes in fiber length, and rate of change to the CNS5,9.  This triggers the myotatic stretch reflex, which reflexively shortens muscle tissue, alters the normal length-tension relationship, and often induces pain. Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO) are located at the musculotendinous junction.  They are sensitive to change in tension and rate of tension change.  Stimulation of the GTO’s past a certain threshold inhibits the muscle spindle activity, and decreases muscular tension.  This phenomenon is referred to as autogenic inhibition2,4,7,11.  It is said to be “autogenic” because the contracting agonist is inhibited by its’ own receptors.  Reduction in soft-tissue tension decreases pain, restores normal muscle length-tension relationships, and improves function.

1. Hold each position 1-2 minutes for each side (when applicable).
2. If pain is reported, stop rolling and REST on the painful areas for 30-45 seconds.
3. Continuing to roll when pain is present activates the muscle spindles, causing increased tightness and pain.
4. Resting 30-45 seconds on painful areas will stimulate the GTO and autogenically inhibit the muscle spindles; reducing muscular tension and will help regulate fascial receptors.
5. Maintain proper Draw-In Position, which provides stability to the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex during rolling.


Position yourself side lying on foam roll.  Bottom leg is raised slightly off floor.  Maintain head in “neutral” with ears aligned with shoulders.  Roll just below hip joint down the lateral thigh to the knee.

Place hamstrings on the roll with hips unsupported.  Feet are crossed to increase leverage.  Roll from knee toward posterior hip while keeping quadriceps tightened.

Body is positioned prone with quadriceps on foam roll.  It is very important to maintain proper Core control (abdominal Drawn-In position & tight gluteals) to prevent low back compensations.  Roll from pelvic bone to knee, emphasizing the lateral thigh

Position the body as described above.  Foam roll is placed just lateral to the anterior pelvic bone (ASIS).

Extend the thigh and place foam roll in the groin region with body prone on the floor.  Be cautious when rolling near the adductor complex origins at the pelvis.

Position yourself side lying with arm outstretched and foam roll placed in axillary area.  Thumb is pointed up to pre-stretch the latissumus dorsi muscle.  Movement during this technique is minimal.

Cross arms to the opposite shoulder to clear the shoulder blades across the thoracic wall.  While maintaining abdominal Draw-In position, raise hips until unsupported.  Also stabilize the head in “neutral.” Roll mid-back area on the foam.

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