SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE (SMR)
Self-myofascial release (SMR) refers to using some form of foam roller/PVC pipe/spikey ball/lacrosse ball to roll out/massage/release tight/painful/restricted muscles and tissues in order to decrease pain and improve mobility. However the thought process behind SMR and the mechanisms of action is poorly understood.
The name in itself implies something that is anatomically inaccurate. Fascia refers to the bands/sheets of connective tissue (primarily collagen) that encloses compartments of muscles. Fascia cannot be physically “released” or “lengthened” by any form of muscle manipulation, self-massage or otherwise. However SMR does provide great benefits that people utilise daily.
So what actually causes the benefits we see in terms of pain and mobility? Well to be brutally honest, we cannot be entirely sure. What we do know is that SMR does not create any physical changes to the tissues themselves, thus any benefits seen are likely to be neurophysiological. That is, they desensitise the nervous system, helping tissues to relax and feel better.
SMR does NOT:
-Increase the physical length of soft tissues.
-Actually “release” fascia.
-Break down any “adhesions” or “muscle knots”.
-Provide a short-term neurophysiological benefit to decreased the perception of pain + tightness.
-Provide an acute increase in range of motion and mobility.
-Provide superior improvements to subsequent performance when compared to static stretching.
Maybe we need to consider a name change to more accurately represent this process… perhaps self-neurophysiological modification, or self-neural alteration ? I’m not sure if either of these will stick, but you get the picture!
B. Health Sciences (Physio), APAM