Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is a bodywork technique that has gained much traction throughout the fitness industry — especially among athletes and workout enthusiasts.
Effective and easy to perform, SMR’s popularity is largely due to its ability to improve flexibility and range of motion, reduce soreness, alleviate pain, promote tissue recovery and restore normal muscle functions. It leaves muscles healthier, relaxed, and more supple.
While it can be done using a variety of tools, SMR is mostly associated with Foam Rolling (FR) and the two terms have become practically synonymous.
What are the benefits of Foam Rolling?
The fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds every organ, bone, nerve, and muscle in the body. Injury, bad posture, overuse, inflammation, or even regular wear and tear can cause adhesions or “trigger points” to form within the fascia over time, causing it to restrict and put pressure on the muscles and joints, which in turn results to rigidity and pain on the affected area.
In order to bring relief and restore movement to the restricted muscles, the fascia must be released through myofascial release therapy, which involves stretching and applying gentle pressure to the sore areas to loosen the fascia, relieve pain, and restore performance-related abilities.
In many cases, myofascial pain can be treated at home or at the gym using a foam roller and this is why Foam Rolling is a form of Self-Myofascial Release.
Studies have shown that Foam Rolling can effectively decrease the overall effects of stress on the human mobility system, with many users claiming to “feel better” almost instantaneously.
As a self-massage technique, Foam Rolling is known to:
- reduce tissue tension, which allows for an increased range of motion in muscles and joints;
- break up myofascial adhesions that compress the muscles, helping restore smoothness to the connective tissues, improve circulation, and reduce pain;
- alleviate soreness and discomfort after sports or workout sessions, increasing the speed of recovery;
- produce feelings of relaxation and wellbeing, which in turn supports mental health.
On top of these, using a foam roller can also help intensify strengthening exercises. Used in workouts to bring instability to a smooth surface, it helps build core strength by engaging deeper-lying muscles to maintain balance.
For city dwellers who spend a lot of time driving in traffic, sitting behind a desk all day, looking down at gadgets, or bending over a keyboard, the regular use of a foam roller can help restore flexibility to the soft tissues, align the spine, and allow the body to achieve a healthier posture.