I have a question regarding self-myofascial release and recovery. What relationship does it have with recovery? Since recovery is so vital in a strength program, it would seem that the pressure applied to the muscle from the foam roller could cause further muscle damage in the recovery process which would prolong it. Are there times when self-myofascial release should and shouldn't be used?
Lets firstly understand how self-myofascial release (SMR) works. The kinetic chain is made up of three systems:
- Soft tissue system ( muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia)
- Neural system, nerves and central nervous system
- Articular system, joints
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 use, fatigue, faulty movement patterns and finally initiating the Cumulative Injury cycle. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved. Due to this restriction, joint motion is altered changing normal neural feedback to the central nervous system. Ultimately, neuromuscular efficiency is compromised, which leads to poor movement patterns, inducing premature fatigue and causing injury.
There are two basic neural receptors that are located in skeletal muscle tissue. These receptors are muscle spindle and golgi tendon. Muscle spindles are located parallel to the muscle fibers. They record changes in fiber length and rate of changes to the central nervous system. This triggers the myotatic stretch reflex, which reflexively shortens muscle tissue, alters the normal length/tension relationship and often induces pain. Golgi Tendon Organs are located in the musculotendinous junction. They are sensitive to change in tension and rate of tension change. Stimulation of the GTOs past a certain threshold inhibits the muscle spindle activity and decreases muscular tension. This phenomenon is referred to as autogenic inhibition. 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.
As noted in Alan Russell's Self Myofascial Release Techniques article, some of the benefits of SMR are:
- Correct muscle imbalances
- Increase joint range of motion
- Decrease muscle soreness
- Decrease muscle hypertonicity
- Increases the extensibility of musculotendinous junction
- Increases neuromuscular efficiency
- Maintain normal functional muscular length
- Relieves joint stress
Now understanding why and how the roller actually works should make this question clearer. Any person who works out either professionally or part time will experience one or more of the eight points above. If we use the roller as it is designed, it will enhance the recovery phase. Surely if the athlete can recover quicker and more efficiently, then the athlete should be able to perform at an even better standard in their following training sessions. The better the quality of the training sessions, the better the quality of the performance of the athlete in competition. Using SMR technique with this knowledge and using the references available on PTontheNet.com involving this technique (do a keyword article search under “Self Myofascial Release”) will give you fantastic results for your clients! I hope this has helped.