Self Myofascial Release-Sample From My Upcoming Book

Self Myofascial Release (SMR): The Key to Self Care

People frequently ask me how often they should perform SMR. My question back to them is “how many times a day are they supposed to brush their teeth”? Well here in the Northeast, dentists have been telling me three times a day for as long as I can remember. People seem surprised that I would recommend performing flexibility techniques three times per day. Well, you only get one set of teeth, you should take good care of them and unlike teeth, muscles, tendons and fascia can’t really be replaced. Even if you only get one bout of SMR in a day, fine, at least know that more is better in most cases.

SMR involves the use of external pressure from just about any object to relax tight and over-active muscles and to break up adhesions in the muscle and fascia. We know that muscles that are left in a shortened position for extended periods of time tend to become over-active (such as the hip flexors and pectorals). Relaxing these muscles is a cornerstone to athletic preparation and recovery.

We also know that muscles and fascia that are stressed repetitively through posture or activity may form adhesions or restrictions that can limit blood flow to and natural movement of muscle fibers. Blood carried rich nutrients such as oxygen to muscles and carries waste products such as lactic acid away from muscles. When blood flow is limited, muscles can become sore and irritated and even develop trigger points. Trigger points are sore areas within a muscle than may send or refer; pain, numbness, tingling or other sensations to other parts of the same muscle or to entirely different muscles. Examples of this are; anterior (front) shoulder pain caused by trigger points in the posterior (back) musculature of the rotator cuff (shoulder) or a headache in the temple caused by a muscle in the neck. Trigger points are often caused by poor posture or repetitive movements. SMR can help to improve blood flow and eliminate trigger points. When muscles or fascia are stressed in a prolonged manner, again you guess it, by poor posture or repetitive movements they body may lay down protective fibers to splint or mobilize an area. These areas are microscopic in nature, but when even a few muscle cells are restricted, the impact can be felt throughout the length of the muscle, nearby joints and muscles surrounding those joints. Releasing these restrictions is a keystone to athletic preparation and recovery.

Think about Spiderman’s costume. If you took the fabric from his costume and stitched or bunched up some of the material around his calve, that would actually pull on the material down by his ankle, up to his knee and more subtly throughout the rest of his costume. His costume would be more prone to ripping when he went swinging from building to building and may even prevent him from running as fast or jumping as high.

So care for your soft tissue on a daily basis, so you are ready to spring into action! 

Other benefits of SMR are;

Contraindications for SMR are;

The following section shows common techniques for applying SMR to key areas of the body. The general approach is to (link to DVD on my site) roll slowly along the targeted area making note of any spots that are most tender. Then go back to the most tender spot and hold it for 30-60 seconds. The pressure and discomfort (yes there will be temporary discomfortJ) will then subside. Repeat this process for 2-3 spots per targeted area. You can then slowly roll across this area to flush out any toxins that may have been built up under that adhesion. You will find that some muscles or areas feel better to roll back and forth slowly and others you may have better luck holding statically as I have described. Either technique can work. I have had the best luck holding tender spots before athletic activities and rolling slowly afterwards as part of my recovery program. Research supports either technique, so experiment, as long as you roll SLOWLY! Only go about in an inch per second. The biggest mistake I see is people rolling back and forth like they are trying to light a fire between the roller and their leg. Not what we are after, that can actually tighten the muscle we are trying to relax and release.

SMR is the first step when beginning to prepare for an athletic activity, yes even before jogging or stretching. This technique will make the following techniques more effective. SMR should be used after athletic activity as part of the recovery process, ideally after a 5-10 minute bout of low intensity cardio and before static stretching.

Thanks for Reading! I will let you know as I get closer to releasing this book!

Eric Beard
Corrective Exercise Specialist
Athletic Performance Enhancements Specialist

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