‘Myofascial Release’—you’ve likely heard it mentioned in the same breath as foam rollers, spiky balls, and massage guns—or perhaps at an appointment with your osteopath, myotherapist, or physio.
Though what does ‘myofascial release’ refer to? When might it be beneficial? And how do you do it?
The term ‘myofascial’ can be split into two—’myo’, meaning muscle; and ‘fascial’, meaning fascia. We’re all familiar with muscle, though its companion ‘fascia’ hasn’t had quite as much air time.
Fascia is a network of connective tissue found all throughout the body, including between the skin, muscles, and bones. It’s this fascia that wraps, connects, and supports your muscles, and also the muscles themselves, which the term ‘myofascial’ encompasses.
“Here’s an easy visual: If your body was an orange, your skin would be the outside orange peel, your muscles would be the fleshy orange fruit itself and the thin white membrane surrounding each orange segment would be the fascia.” – Cleveland Clinic
Myofascial restriction can develop from injuries, overuse (and underuse!), as well as certain movement patterns and postures. Fascia is innervated (has nerves), making it nearly as sensitive as skin. When stressed or irritated, the fascia and associated muscle fibres can tighten, shorten, develop adhesions, and therefore not move optimally.
Since fascia is interconnected, tightness and restriction in one area of the body can have an influence elsewhere, in turn further affecting movement, and potentially becoming a source of pain and discomfort. The pain experienced can be due to this perpetuation of poor movement patterns, and/or stem from those troublesome fibres which present themselves as firm, tender points in the myofascia—commonly known as ‘knots’ or ‘trigger points’.
It makes sense then that ‘release’ of this ‘restriction’ may help to improve movement and flexibility, relieve pain and discomfort, minimise the risk of injuries, restore balance, and importantly—relax the body and mind.
Typically performed ‘hands-on’ by therapists such as osteopaths, physiotherapists, remedial massage therapists and myotherapists—myofascial release involves sustained pressure to areas of the body where there are myofascial restrictions.
Self-myofascial release, as the name suggests, involves someone providing this sustained pressure to themselves—typically with the assistance of dedicated release props or mobility tools such as foam rollers, spiky balls, massage guns, etc. While it’s recommended to perform self-myofascial release under the direction of a health professional (particularly to begin with), self-myofascial release has the benefit of allowing the individual to take a more active role in their ongoing movement maintenance, since it can be performed just about any place and any time. This might be advantageous for warm up and recovery (if you don’t have your own personal therapist to follow you around), as part of a home treatment program between sessions with a practitioner, for ongoing self-care and pain management, or maybe just because it makes you feel good.
Static or active – the release pressure can be static (held), or it may also incorporate movement. Deep pressure when combined with active contraction is referred to as an active release technique.
Don’t forget to breathe – focusing on deep breathing during your self-myofascial release will further help to relax your body and mind.
Start small – hold for short durations at a pressure you can comfortably tolerate. It’s normal to feel increased sensation during the release.
Build slowly – if your body responds positively, gradually build up the duration of release hold and the level of pressure applied. If you experience increased discomfort following a release, discontinue and discuss with your health practitioner.
Don’t overcomplicate it – for some it can be counterproductive to become bogged down thinking about how long to hold for, how much pressure to apply, and whether what you are doing qualifies as myofascial release. Think of it as a form of self-massage and listen to your body—if it feels good, helps you to relax and reduce tension, and encourages you to move, then there’s benefit.
If in doubt, or if you have an injury, significant medical history, or a particular condition—consult your healthcare professional, e.g. doctor, physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, occupational therapist, exercise physiologist, or movement teacher.
Myofascial release techniques may be most effective when forming part of a multifaceted approach in conjunction with other approaches including heat therapy, stretching, posture, ergonomics, relaxation and stress reduction, sleep hygiene, acupuncture, an anti-inflammatory diet, and of course—movement and exercise.
Why self-myofascial release with MAKARLU Lotus?
The distinctive sizes, surface contours and textures of the components of MAKARLU Lotus provide unique sensory input, fascial grip, and treatment focus to the skin, fascia, and muscles. Different domes may be better suited to unique body compositions, sensitivities, preferences, and body areas (such as neck, back, pecs, shoulders, glutes, quads, hamstrings, ITBs, calves, feet). Try smaller domes for a targeted release, and larger domes for a broader release.
Variable firmness – the Nesting Domes design lets you adjust the firmness of the large and medium domes. Simply add or remove inner domes to suit.
Inbuilt magnets – not only for the floor, magnets enable the Lotus domes to be used vertically and ‘hands-free’. Position the domes as needed and stick them securely to your fridge, filing cabinet, your car, and more. This feature can be advantageous to those who are unable to get up and down off the floor easily, and is also useful for moderating the self-myofascial release pressure to suit individual preference. The pressure can be controlled by gradually leaning or pushing harder against the domes—something that may be more difficult to manage on the floor.