Self-myofascial release (SMR), more commonly known as foam rolling, is a manual therapy technique often used to improve flexibility, recovery, and athletic performance. There has been ample research to support the effects that foam rolling has on our bodies, especially when it comes to reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS.
To begin, let’s first break down the term, “myofascia.” Myo- means muscle, and fascia- refers to the connective/fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle. In other words, self-myofascial release is essentially a way to reduce soft-tissue/muscle tightness by rolling the sore/aching muscle over a hard surface (foam roller); which in turn, will help break up and massage any localized knots that cause decreased joint range of motion (ROM) and decreased blood flow.
More specifically, from a step-by-step/directional standpoint, “foam rolling involves lying on the ground, with the foam roller placed between the body and the ground. The foam roller is pressed into the muscle group being treated, and then the body is moved back and forth over it, thereby ‘rolling’ along the ground. An even tempo is used, with slow movements in each direction” (Vigotsky et al. 2015b).
Rolling out each distressed muscle will target multiple trigger points and alleviate pain in each concentrated area. It can be advantageous to perform this type of “tool-assisted self-manual therapy” either BEFORE your workout (to improve flexibility) or AFTER your workout (to reduce muscle soreness and promote recovery). It is also important to incorporate stretching immediately after foam rolling as well to help encourage more elasticity of the muscles and to potentially get rid of excess lactic acid buildup in the muscles.
For those of us who work out at a high intensity and push our bodies to their maximal limits almost every day of the week, it might be smart idea to start incorporating this type of practice into ones exercise regimen. All in all, foam rolling may be beneficial in helping to decrease muscle tightness, soreness, tenderness, and pain; and may help to increase joint ROM, flexibility, and athletic performance. A great brand I love to use to help with my recovery is: Trigger Point. They have a wide variety of products that can help reach a person’s individual needs! Happy rolling!