Myofascial release is a massage therapy that is used to treat skeletal muscle immobility and pain by relaxing contracted muscles, improving blood circulation, and stimulating the stretch reflex in muscles. This technique, also known as "foam rolling," is a massage technique previously reserved for professional athletes and physical therapists, but is now being adopted by people of all fitness levels to prevent injuries and increase performance.
In reality, Myofascial release is just a fancy term for self massage that is performed to remove the tension or "knots" that develop in muscles over time. This tension can be caused by overuse, underuse, previous injuries, stress and/or poor posture. By applying pressure to specific points on your body, you are able to aid in the recovery by restoring blood flow and pliability of these muscles. With regular practice, you will be able to improve the mobility, elasticity and function of these tissues.
This kind of self-massage can be performed with a variety of tools such as a foam roller, massage ball, Theracane or your own hands. If just starting out, choose a softer foam roller and work up to a firmer roller. Use the foam roller to apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle or muscle group using the roller and your bodyweight. You should roll slowly, no more than one inch per second. When you find an area that are particularly sensitive, pause and relax as much as possible. After the initial discomfort, you should feel the muscle slowly releasing after 5-30 seconds. If an area is too painful to apply direct pressure, try shifting the roller to apply pressure on the surrounding area to gradually work and loosen the entire area.
Foam rolling will initially feel uncomfortable but should never be done to the point of extreme discomfort. The goal is to restore healthy function of muscles. Never foam roll directly on bones and avoid rolling your lower back. These areas tend to be more sensitive and can require more advanced attention from a medical professional.
Below is a photo tutorial to massaging different areas of the body:
As a start, try adding 5-minutes of foam rolling to the beginning of your warm-up to prime your muscles for your workout. Foam rolling is also a great technique to use on active-rest days, as a way to relieve soreness and improve mobility.
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