What is myofascia?
As explained in a previous blog post, myofascia refers to the fibrous tissue that connects your head to your toe while protecting the muscles. It is best explained as the “white stuff on an orange” – where it acts as a protective barrier between the skin and the muscles. The fascia allows for ideal gliding of the tissues while the muscles contract and relax. However, with every benefit also comes a downside. Fascia contains similar tissues to muscles, which means it is still susceptible to pain, adhesions, restriction and tearing. Therefore, myofascial dysfunction can be very painful and can contribute to decreasing or altered the range of motion and poor mechanics and efficiency of movement.
The two areas of fascia that we often see the most impairments in are the 1) Thoracolumbar fascia and 2) Iliotibial band (IT band). The thoracolumbar fascia is the connective tissue found connecting the thoracic and lumbar spine musculature right around the junction of the sacroiliac joint (outlined in blue in the left image below). The IT band is the band of fibers that strands from the greater trochanter (bony part) of the hip to the outside of the knee (right image below).
What is myofascial release?
Myofascial release can refer to a few different techniques. Firstly, it can refer to a manual technique our therapists at Block Sports Chiropractic and Physical Therapy in Smithtown, NY and Selden, NY utilize. Unlike soft tissue massage where our hands glide freely over the restricted tissue, myofascial release involves more patients. The technique involves finding the restricted direction and placing our hands in a way that stretches the fascia and holding for 3-5 minutes.
Another technique used as a home program is foam rolling. The foam roll will act similar to our hands to assist in improving fascial mobility. The pressure of the foam roll over the tight fascia or muscle has been theorized to A) “iron out” restrictions, B) alter communication to the brain to allow for increased muscle length and/or C) increase muscle temperature to increase extensibility. It is unclear which method is the reasoning for the success of foam roll, however, it is highly supported in randomized control trials (RCTs). Several RCTs have found that foam rolling prior to competition has led to short term improvements in ROM and muscle activation – making it superior to static stretching as a pregame routine.
When should it be performed:
Myofascial release has been theorized to benefit both pre-game and post-game rituals. Prior to a competition, as stated earlier, it can help increase muscle temperature and mobility to allow for better muscle recruitment and performance. Additionally, myofascial release can help prevent post-game soreness. With competition or exercise comes muscle damage and repair. It is when the repairing component gets stuck that collagen can create adhesions throughout the tissue. By rolling the foam roll or performing myofascial release, you are preventing the collagen from accumulating in one place and causing adhesions.
Our providers at Block Sports Chiropractic and Physical Therapy suggest performing foam rolling prior to and immediately after athletic competition or exercise. From experience, athletes and weekend warriors have benefited and healed faster with the implementation of myofacial release pre- and post-game.
Who should do it?
Muscle tightness and fascial restrictions can lead to a cascade of other issues. The tightness can lead to poor joint range of motion, inefficient functional movement, and inferior sports performance. By improving the fascial pliability, you are allowing your joints to move correctly with decreased pulling, while also improving the area for muscles to be activated. This creates a more efficient and safe movement which will carry over into improved performance.
With that being said, everyone can benefit from myofascial release. A skilled manual release should be performed only by professional providers. Self-release with foam rolling should initially be taught by a provider, and then can be performed by anyone who demonstrates no complications! Our physical therapists and chiropractors in Smithtown, NY, and Selden, NY are highly specialized in myofascial release, as well as teaching proper foam rolling technique.
What kind of foam roller and where to get one?
Foam rollers come in all different shapes and sizes. It is recommended that beginner users start with the softest foam roll. The softer the foam, the more comfortable it will be. However, as you get comfortable and your tissues begin to loosen, it is suggested that you progress to harder foam or foam with ridges/bumps. This will get deeper into the tissue that the softer foam and create greater heat and better loosening of tissues.
We sell foam rollers directly at our Block Sports Chiropractic and Physical Therapy locations. We are located in Smithtown, NY and Selden, NY. With the purchase of a foam roller, would, of course, come an educational session to make sure the purchaser is using it correctly and safely.