Soft tissue injuries have often been the pain of many athletes, from the casual 10k runners, right through to the professional level athletes. J. Barnes (2006) said that soft tissue injuries could be initiated by chronic and acute mechanisms, including physical trauma, overuse, structural imbalances, or an inflammatory process. As a result, fascia, the connective tissue that binds the soft tissue of the human body, is often affected. These injuries stimulate development on inelastic, fibrous adhesions between myofascial layers, preventing normal function of muscle mechanics and decreasing soft tissue extensibility. These adhesions are often overlooked and not treated. As a result, the adhesions can buildup and create further soft tissue dysfunction.
Massage therapy is the common treatment for soft tissue injuries, using a variety of techniques such as heat, electric current, ultra sound straps, and sprays, all of which have shown to produce positive effects on soft tissue and fascia. In the past 10 years, self-myofascial release (SMR) has often been used to help treat myofascial restriction and assist in maintaining normal soft tissue function. In SMR sessions, a person uses his or her own body weight on a myofascial roller, also known as a foam roller (FR), to exert pressure on the soft tissue. The person will then stop on “tender points” to release tension before continuing with the routine. By varying body positions, a person can control the weight, location, and the amount of pressure exerted on the soft tissue to assist in treating myofascial restrictions.
Currently, there are disagreements between researchers on the exact mechanics of myofascial release (MR). Many believe that MR induces a mechanical change in the soft tissue; however, researchers do agree that proper technique for MR begins with superficial soft-tissue layers and gradually works deeper into the musculature (Barnes, J., 2005). Once deeper tissues are affected, it can be changed. There is no doubt that SMR techniques do work and help with soft tissue extensibility and normal function.
A study by Curren P. F. et al., (2008) looked at the designs of two SMR rollers, or FRs, to determine which roller produced greater pressure on the soft tissue. The two FRs tested were a bio foam roller (BFR) and a multi-level roller (MLR). The BFR is a firm single-level roller, which has a flat surface and exerts pressure over a wider surface area. The MLR has ridges in the design that claim to exert more pressure into the soft tissue; therefore, creating more change in the deeper levels of soft tissue. The subjects were tested using a different roller on each leg along the iliotibial band (ITB), which is a common area of discomfort for many runners.
The results showed that the MLR exerted greater pressure on the soft tissue in comparison to the BFR. The reason for this may be that the BFR can change its shape and give way when pressure is exerted onto it. Due to its flat surface, the pressure can be distributed across a wider surface area, whilst the MLR, with its harder internal shell and muli-level characteristics, allows more pressure that can be exerted on one specific area at a time.
J. Barnes (2005) believes that deep sustained therapies during the initial phase of inflammation could increase muscle extensibility and tissue strength through stimulation of the nervous system. As a result, using the MLR for deeper SMR could potentially help in the recovery process from both fitness training and injury. With this information, Fstacademy uses SMR techniques with all its clients, and often recommends them to use the same techniques at home between sessions. Most SMR rollers that are on sale are similar to the BFR used in the Curren, P. F. et al., (2008); however, Fstacademy has found and sells a high quality MLR with trigger point therapy, which has both broad multi-levels and narrow multi-levels. The benefit of this is that you can use the broad levels to start superficially into the soft tissue layers, and then use the narrow layers to work deeper and find the trigger points that release soft tissue restrictions. The MLRs are not much more expensive than a BFR, and will last a lot longer due to its solid center that will not change shape or give way when pressure is exerted onto it.
Practically, SMR is a great way of releasing soft tissue restrictions, which may turn into chronic soft tissue dysfunction. Fstacademy ideally recommends that you use SMR every day, but if that is not possible, it should definitely be used after any training, including strength training, fitness training, high intensity training, or long runs. SMR is definitely worth putting the effort into it, and with the trigger point MLR you can take it anywhere knowing that you can obtain the best out of your session. Following this post, Fstacademy will be posting instructional YouTube videos on the techniques to using a SMR.
Barnes, J. (2005). Myofascial Release. In: Hammer WI, ed. Functional Soft Tissue Examina-tion and Treatment by Manual Methods: New Perspectives. Gaithersburg, MD: Aspen. pp. 533–548.
Curran. P.F., Fiore. R.D., and Crisco. J. J. (2008). A Comparison of the Pressure Exerted on Soft Tissue by 2 Myofascial Rollers. Journal of Sports Rehabilitation, 17, pp. 432–442.