What Is Self Myofacial Release And How Can It Help Me As An Athlete?

By John Laufer

May 1, 2020

Myofascial Release is a fancy term that is often thrown around by coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists and medical professionals. And sometimes even recreational athletes like you and I.

Often, when we hear the term, myofascial release, techniques, like foam rolling, come to mind. However, foam rolling is only one type of self myofascial release.

Myofascial release, like foam rolling, is a highly effective activity that has a number of benefits such as helping eliminate muscle tightness and soreness. We will go through these benefits in detail later in this article.

Self-Myofascial release is when we can perform these massage-like activities using simple tools, like foam rollers, yoga wheels, massage sticks, massage guns, massage balls, and other items without the need for a massage therapist, trainer or other professional.

In this article, I am going to explore the area of self-myofascial release and show how self myofascial release tools like those mentioned above can help with increased mobility and flexibility, injury prevention, and faster recovery.

What Is Muscle Fascia?

Before we can fully understand myofascial release, we need to look at the muscle fascia itself.

Muscle fascia is a soft tissue that is primarily made of collagen. It acts as a sheet or 'wrap' that surrounds our muscle in order to separate it from other muscles and internal organs. It helps band the muscle fibers together and helps our muscles move freely alongside other muscle structures and organs. 

What Is Self Myofascial Release?

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Why Is Self Myofascial Release Important?

Our muscles are made up of large groups of banded fascia. Over time, our fascia gets restricted. This can be caused from scar tissue build up due to injury, trauma, repetitive motions, inflammatory responses and just normal, everyday life. As our fascia gets more restricted, we notice increased muscle tightness, soreness and restrictions on our range of motion

Because these restrictions also occur deep within a muscle structure, normal stretching is not effective. When this happens, we need to use techniques like deep tissue massage or self myofascial release to get to, and release the restricted fascia. 

What Are The Benefits Of Self Myofascial Release?

Athletes who want to recover faster, prevent injury and have a competitive edge should make myofascial release part of their overall routine. Rather than make techniques like foam rolling and massage an afterthought, make it a part of your training program. For example, do not wait until you have a trouble spot that resulted in tendinitis, runner's knee or IT Band syndrome. Instead, add a foam rolling routine and use tools like a foam roller, massage stick or massage gun to keep your flexibility and mobility high.

Here are several benefits of myofascial release broken out by category:

Flexibility and Mobility

  • Reduces muscle tissue tension which allows muscles to experience an increase in joint range of motion
  • Reduces the risk of developing adhesions and scar tissue as a result of collagen binding between layers of muscle tissue.
  • Improves overall flexibility due to improved elasticity and range of motion
  • Helps prepare your body for movement
  • Helps facilitate and accelerates muscle repair through improved blood flow and removal of lymphastic fluids 

Myofascial Release Research and Citations

There are numerous, published, peer-reviewed studies that show the benefits of self myofascial release. Here are just a few:

The Effects of Myofascial Release With Foam Rolling on Performance
Healey, Kellie & Hatfield, Disa & Blanpied, Peter & Dorfman, Leah & Riebe, Deborah. (2013). The Effects of Myofascial Release With Foam Rolling on Performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. 28. 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182956569.

The Effects Of Self-Myofascial Release Using A Foam Roll Or Roller Massager On Joint Range Of Motion, Muscle Recovery, And Performance: A Systematic Review
Cheatham SW, Kolber MJ, Cain M, Lee M. The Effects Of Self-Myofascial Release Using A Foam Roll Or Roller Massager On Joint Range Of Motion, Muscle Recovery, And Performance: A Systematic Review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(6):827‐838.

Comparing The Effects Of Self‐Myofascial Release With Static Stretching On Ankle Range-Of‐Motion In Adolescent Athletes
Škarabot J, Beardsley C, Štirn I. Comparing the effects of self-myofascial release with static stretching on ankle range-of-motion in adolescent athletes. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(2):203‐212.

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