Relief from Muscle Pain? It’s a Stretch

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Myofascia is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles. As we age, it loses elasticity, making us more susceptible to pain and injury. Myofascia also thickens due to repetitive strain or sudden injury.

“These thickened areas can produce pain, entrap nerves and blood vessels and limit mobility,” says chiropractor and massage therapist Dr. Chadwick Shank.

Self-myofascial release is a stretching technique that uses a foam roller or small ball and your body weight to release tight tissue or tender points. Basically, after a warmup, you place the area of muscle over a foam roller or small ball positioned on the wall or floor and use your body weight to move back and forth over the roller. When a tender point is found in the muscle, you stop rolling and hold that position for up to 30 seconds.

Once the tenderness releases, you continue to roll over the rest of the muscle. The entire stretch should last one to two minutes per area. “Self-myofascial release works by mechanically breaking down these thickened areas, as well as improving local cellular nutrition,” says Shank.

From a rehabilitation perspective, self-myofascial release in combination with any treatment from a health-care professional will help you recover faster, says registered physiotherapist Andrea Stephen, who recommends self-release to help shorten recovery time from injuries and prevent muscle imbalances. “Unlike traditional stretching, it addresses the entire myofascial unit rather than just the muscle in isolation, and you are able to localize the technique to the specific restricted area.”

Recommended reading: The Great Foam Roller Handbook by André Noël Potvin.