I’m no physio, let me be clear from the outset. However, I do exercise, stretch and perform self myofascial release in order to keep my body in check. I do have a Sports Science degree, so I am well rehearsed with anatomy and physiology which motivates me to expand my knowledge base on all that impacts on performance. If there’s one thing that definitely affects performance, its injury…and more often than not, injury results from innocuous spasms in the muscle known as trigger points. The term Myofascial release loosely refers to the active relaxation of these trigger points via the release of spasms in the fascia lining. Fascia is a layer of thin yet tough, elastic connective tissue that wrap the muscle. Like most tissue, fascia can become tight and restricted, hence the need to massage and stretch it out from time to time.
Active Myofascial Release
Performed using a lacrosse or firm tennis ball, this form of Self Myofascial Release (SMR) uses the contraction of the supporting muscle in order to stretch out the target area. Known as ‘Active Myofascial Release’, this technique of self massage releases muscle spasms and tight spots through the active lengthening of the muscle. What makes this method of release so effective is that you’re using the active contraction of the supporting muscle in order to eccentrically contract (muscle lengthens whilst under tension), and thus stretch the target muscle.
Applying Active Myofascial Release
This method requires that you can either extend or flex the effected area, so should you have a tight hamstring, you should sit on a firm chair and isolate the tight area. Next you should place a lacrosse ball under your leg, behind the tight area (nearer your buttocks) and extend the knee to contract the quad and lengthen (stretch) the hamstring. The further down the hamstring (closer to the knee) the ball is placed, the shorter the portion of hamstring stretched will be. The ball should not roll like the roller ordinarily would during a roll out, but rather serve as an anchor to the stretch and provide some pin- point friction to the affected area. Instead of moving over the roller/ball to induce a stretch, you’re letting the muscle perform the stretch itself.
‘Active Myofascial Release’ with a foam roller
You might also like to try ‘Active Myofascial Release’ on the lats. The theory is the same only this time you bring back the trusty foam roller! Lying on your side, place the roller onto the latissimus dorsi and extend the arm nearest to the roller out in front of you (as if in the recovery position). Allow your body weight to press against the roller and from this position raise the arm up above your head, keeping it parallel to the ground (only about an inch above the ground at all times). The raising of the arm lengthens the lat invoking a stretch, which if held for 5-10 secs should eventually alleviate the trigger point (Gibson, 2014).
Gibson, R. (2014). Advanced Foam Rolling Techniques from a Massage Therapist. Retrieved 3rd July, 2014, from http://www.fitocracy.com/knowledge/advanced-foam-rolling-techniques-from-a-massage-therapist/?utm_source=Fitocracy+Users&utm_campaign=d23fb42377-Content_Advanced_Foam_Rolling_7_02_14&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c1f25ec28f-d23fb42377-246986397