Obsessions over home workouts, making use of your available space and household equipment, and it’s great that we’re all keeping fit! But… how many of you are performing myofascial release? Read on to find out how your body works…
Let’s start with the term “Myofascial”- “Myo”, meaning muscle & “Fascial”, meaning web of connective tissue. Therefore, Myofascia is an intertwined web of connective tissue that weaves back and forth, under and over all of our internal structures, connects and encapsulates muscles, ligaments and tendons, links them together and ultimately helps the body move. It forms a continuous web or track from the top of our skull, down to our toes- it’s essentially a body suit.
As a visual representation, the body’s engineering genius acts like a piece of clothing- a tug at any one point would move the whole train of fascia, and cannot be moved independently. Let’s take a t-shirt for example. If you pull the bottom corner diagonally downwards, we get creases in the t-shirt towards the opposite shoulder. Alternatively, if we pull the t-shirt from the same corner but pull directly downwards, the t-shirt creases would point towards the shoulder of the same side. This is a great analogy that shows the multiple lines of pull from one anchor point. Now imagine, a whole body suit- tight fascia at the top of the chain and how it can influence that further down the chain.
Through repetitive actions (running, cycling) or prolonged periods in the same posture (work desk), our muscles start to shorten, as does our fascia. If we don’t manage this, adhesions start to form (clumps of tight “knotty” fascia), negatively influencing our range of movement and mobility- unfortunately, a recipe for a detriment in performance or even injury!
Myofascial release usually involves the use of a foam roller or some form of hard ball- perhaps a hockey ball, cricket ball, tennis ball or even a dog ball!
Take a look at these FAQ’s regarding myofascial release…
What does it do?
Both foam rolling and trigger ball release aim to achieve the same thing- release tight bands of “knotty” tissue, called trigger points, and the corresponding fascia. These point can often send pain signals to our brain. Releasing these areas can improve our range of movement and mobility, reduce pain and increase performance.
How do I know if I’m doing it correctly? Is there a specific technique?
There’s not a specific technique, no. However, there are certain positions you need to get into, that require you to hold your own body weight, which can actually prove to be quite tiring. Finding tight areas will often feel uncomfortable, and may send deep achy signals further down the fascial chain- but not always.
Although, I said there isn’t a specific technique, here’s what NOT to do: Don’t roll like your rolling pizza dough! A technique used by many just to tick it off for the day to say they have done it and it seems easy and quick. Take your time, find those tight adhesive areas and concentrate on relaxing and ironing those out.
If you’re still unsure, come in to see us at Function Jigsaw and we can show you the ropes.
Where do I start?
If you have never done it before, have a little think about where you feel tight and why. Perhaps you sit at your desk all day, and the front of your hip and thighs need attending to. Perhaps you’re a keen runner, and need to focus your attention on your calf complex and the bottom of your foot. Remember, it’s all connected, so work the whole chain.
When should I do it?
Whenever you can! The more the better. Before your workout, may help you achieve greater mobility with squats and perform better. Alternatively, after your workout will promote the removal of lactic acid and increase range of movement, or, on rest days, to maintain a functional body, free from injury
Why should I do it, and what happens if I don’t?
As we’ve mentioned before, tight fascial adhesion between muscles can cause mobility restrictions and lead to injury. Foam rolling is great to treat an injury but also to prevent them too! Due to the toughness of the fascia, adhesions aren’t easy to get out, but a combination of stretching and self-massage to add pliancy to the tissue, should help.
I don’t have a foam roller, is this a problem? Is there an alternative?
No, it’s no problem. Use a hard hockey ball or something of the sort. You can release off the same places, however, a ball is very direct and may be a little harsher than a foam roller. They both have their pros and cons, so a foam roller would be useful.
Should it hurt when I foam roll?
It’s not the most pleasant experience to those that have never done it before, so yes it can be uncomfortable, which is probably why adherence rates for foam rolling can be low. The more you do it, the easier it gets- and a lot of people actually enjoy it! You’ll feel much better afterwards.
How often should I be doing this and how long for?
This really depends on how you feel or your injury status. If you feel particularly tight, then longer sessions maybe needed. I often tell my patients, roll for as long as you need to. In other words, if you feel better afterwards and don’t really feel anymore tight areas, then stop. Perform everyday if possible, the more routine you have, the better.
There are a lot of foam rollers to buy. Does it matter which one?
There is a wide variety of foam rollers out there, from hard, nobbily ones, to vibrating ones. Of course I recommend our Active roller here at Function Jigsaw. It has a unique helical design that promotes the movement of blood and lactate, and just the right amount of foam consistency, that doesn’t leave you biting your lip. If you do have another, sure this can be used, but caution as some will present very hard, and foam rolling will be even more unpleasant!
Some days can be more painful than others. Is this right?
Yes! This will mostly depend on what you have done earlier that day, yesterday or even a collation of days since you were last on the roller.
One side hurts more than the other. Why is this?
This could be a whole host of reasons, but might be your desk set up at work, the fact that you use the mouse with one hand, the shoulder you carry your bag on, the arm you play racket sports with, the arm on the steering wheel…and the list goes on! If one side feels tighter than the other, try evening them up.
NOW…GO AND GET ROLLING!
Contact your local physio in Leicester today – Function Jigsaw