Friday, 15 August 2014

Self Myo-fascial Release (Foam roller) common errors & useful tips

The application of a foam roller to support the recovery & performance of muscles has been steadily on the increase over the last five years or so. Applied correctly it can be a very useful tool, however in most cases poor understanding of what you are trying to achieve physiologically leads to misuse

I continue to see (almost daily), token efforts (rolling too quickly or not along the path of a muscle) on the Foam Rollers supplemented by incorrect use. This will in fact have a damaging effect on performance & potentially promotes injury.

So where does the term SMFR originate: 
Self- Your providing the therapy
Myo- Latin term for muscle
Fascia- Connective tissue

Muscle & Fascia how does it work

Fascia is like a giant web, it is a connective tissue that lines the bones, the organs, it separates muscles into working compartments, functional chains & lines every cubic centimeter of the body.
Fascia is so important in movement, when there are muscular dysfunctions present such as poor gluteal activation the fascial connections to other muscles compensate to stabilize the pelvis. Unlike a muscle that has a start & finish point, fascia actually pulls against itself to provide stability a term known as tensegrity. Interestingly it is also now believed that if you strip all the muscle off the skeleton the remaining fascia is strong enough to maintain the shape of the body. Fascia is now believed to be responsible for attaching up-to 80% of a muscle to bone in contrast to tendons which account for the other 20%  

How should fascia move

Imagine throwing a pebble into a pond, you would expect the wave like ripples to flow away, this is the same concept with fascia, it supports effortless movement of the body.
Overuse, tissue trauma & injury affect the composition of the fascial connection which leads to changes in the way your muscles & body move.

Test your fascial movement
1- If you place your hand lightly on your forearm, try moving the skin in all direction & observe how it is highly mobile and there are no restrictions,
2- Now do the same placing the hand lightly on the ITB running down the side of the thigh, there will be a significant difference,

  Fascia can be described like an orange, 
Skin- The orange skin can be likened to our skin,
Superficial Fascia- The white pyth lying between the orange skin & the segments can be likened to  our superficial (closest to the surface of the skin) layer of fascia
Deep Fascia- Once inside the orange you'll notice it is broken into large triangular segments, further broken into compartments housing the pips. This is known as the deep fascia

Why use a foam roller?
Daily living activities, posture & exercise force your body to regenerate & progressively adapt to the stress placed upon it. In response, the body lays down scar tissue, this must be realigned for it to function correctly, imagine ironing the crease out of a shirt.
You will also find that during 'rolling' you may find 'knots' also known as trigger points (excitable band of tissue), these are like roadblocks that sit in the muscle & considerably reduce muscle function/ movement.

Correct application of SMFR will
- Re-align scar tissue
- Remove Trigger Points
- Improve flexibility
- Reduce over activity in dominant muscles
- Improve circulation & delivery of nutrients
- Remove waste products

Do not
- Roll over varicose veins
- Roll over Joints
- Roll over inflamed areas

The concept of foam rolling or fascial release is an aggressive & intrusive technique, in simple terms you are giving the muscle a deep tissue massage.
Deep tissue massage will inevitably cause bleeding & inflammation within the tissue that leads to pain on function or during movement, this may sound bad, but it supports all the positive aspects listed above.
Foam rolling every single day will however, reduce the ability for a muscle to recover & could incite further injury as individual continue to train whilst working deep into tissue.

Fascia re-alignment
Muscles & Fascia are surrounded by a substance that is similar to hard jelly, as you roll slowly through the muscle the jelly changes into a liquid which exposes the fascia and scar tissue. this takes 60-90 seconds of slow focused through the tissue. Be wary not to wade into the muscle to prematurely, treat the muscle like a good woman, romance it, get it in the mood and then go deep! Your more likely to get what you want at the end of the process :)

Trigger pointing as a foam roller technique
Imagine tying a knot into a rubber band, you can pull it tight but the knot will not go anywhere, reducing the stretch. Therefore prior to rolling through a muscle it is useful to trigger point (applying direct pressure by hand or with the roller/ Hockey/Tennis Ball) first to remove these knots to allow full dynamic flexibility of the muscles.
If your hip flexors have knots present you will lose the ability to extend the hip, compromising glute activation, it would therefore make sense to release the hip flexors first, to improve contraction of the glutes.
How to identify a trigger point When slowly rolling the muscle if you come across a localized painful area of tissue, apply no more than a 8/10 pressure to the area for up-to 60 secs 3 x times if needed, until the pain reduces to a 2/10 or you feel a release. The reason we are only applying 60 secs of pressure and not longer is due to the reduction in oxygen flow to the cells. If the hold is applied for too long you can have a negative effect on the tissue causing it to die.

1- Alter the depth of the roller so that you target the superficial layer of tissue to promote general movement of the 'connective web'
2- Only target the deep fascia a day or so after exercise or during prolonged bouts of inactivity to improve circulation & reduce scar tissue build-up. Deep tissue rolling can reduce muscle soreness after heavy training by upto 40%
3- Trigger pointing is safe prior to exercise or competition,
4- Do not foam roller deep 24hrs before an event or training, you will have a terrible session

I hope you enjoyed the blog, if you learned something please take the time to like and share with your friends and colleagues, I am also on Facebook 'Primal Movement Solutions'.

1 comment:

  1. Foam roller exercise is also known as self-myofascial release. It combines the benefits of flexibility and massage. I this its great as back massagers. but people say its bad to roll on lower back.