Myofascial release therapy is highly beneficial for muscular pain. You might have developed the pain because of various issues such as an injury, fall, strain or sprain, and even bad posture. If you enjoy playing high-impact games or are a professional athlete, myofascial release therapy can help you recover from the training sessions you put your body through and the possible injuries you incur when playing the games. This treatment is also good for the specific muscles you use repeatedly when performing an athletic move. Like for example, the shoulder muscles used for making “reach and pull motions” during swimming.
You can perform certain myofascial release exercises on your own. Ask your therapist for the right tools you can use. To see a few great examples, click here.
What is the Myofascial Network?
The myofascial network is a layer of elastin and collagen fibers within a viscous liquid also called ground substance that surrounds every inch of your body below the skin and above the muscles and other tissues. This structure forms 80% of the soft tissues of your body and keeps your internal organs, bones, nerves, and muscles protected. Thick in some areas and thinner in others, this network is highly flexible and helps you perform any kind of movement smoothly. Athletes can perform effective motions like running, kicking a ball, swinging a bat or a golf iron as long as the myofascial structure is healthy and functioning well to cushion the impact of each motion.
How Athletes Cause Damage to their Myofascial Tissues
Any wound, injury, or surgical procedure conducted on the myofascial structure results in bleeding and inflammation. Trauma of any kind can also cause damage to the network of elastin and collagen. The adhesions in the network thus make it difficult for athletes to move freely. Eventually, these adhesions become trigger points that can set off muscular pain in other sections of the body that seem completely unrelated.
Aside from injuries and trauma, the training sessions that athletes undertake also cause stress to the myofascial network. When athletes train, they are likely to make repetitive motions and use a specific set of muscles again and again. To manage the repetitive stress on the same muscles, the myofascial structure thickens, tightens, and makes the appropriate changes to prepare for the next session of training. These distortions make movement difficult and athletes start to feel the stiffness in their muscles.
Symptoms of Issues with the Myofascial Structure
The trigger points in the myofascial structure caused by trauma are also called gristle, ropes, knots, and scar tissue. Essentially, they are small sections of misaligned tissues that result from the biological and chemical changes in the myofascial network. Here are some symptoms that indicate you need treatment.
Pain is typically caused in the trigger points and makes movement difficult. An expert therapist is trained in identifying the specific trigger points and trauma areas. Often, the injured sections of the myofascial network may not hurt at all but broadcast the pain to other sections of the body that seem disconnected. For this reason, when you come in for a session of myofascial release treatment, your therapist will begin by palpitating and gently pressing down on the different sections of the body. These actions help to identify the injured areas properly before beginning treatment.
Difficulty in Movement
When your skin does not smoothly slide over the damaged, underlying myofascial structure and muscles, you start to feel the stiffness and difficulty in movement. As you strain to continue to move, the muscles and joints start to become inflamed and stressed. To cope with the inflammation, the body sets of chemical reactions in an attempt to heal them. If you continue to move as before and don’t give your body time to heal, you end up with the joints to moving off axis and muscles taking on unnatural movement patterns. In the long run, you end up with an excess of fat and calcium deposits in the damaged muscles and joints.
Tightness and Dense Areas of Tissue
As long as you move normally, the myofascial network remains in its gel-like state and flexible. But, the repetitive stress makes the gel turn into a more solid form that can begin to exert pressure on the muscles, nerves, and bones. That’s the reason why you feel the stiffness and pain. You’ll also start to feel like there are hard patches below the skin that seem sore to touch. Sensations like these patches are pressng down on your muscles every time you try to move are also a common complaint of athletes.
How Athletes can Prevent Damage to the Myofascial Structure
Prevention is no doubt better than cure and by taking a few simple precautions, you can minimize the damage you cause to your myofascial structure. Here are a few simple habits to follow:
- Perform the necessary stretching as directed by your physical instructor before training for or playing a sport. For instance, maintain a stretched posture for at least 5 minutes. This time interval helps your soft tissues return to their normal, flexible, gel-like state.
- Be gentle with your muscles. If you strain too hard, you’ll cause micro-tears in the tissues.
- Soft tissues have the capability to remember the repetitive movements you subject them to. By conducting gentle movements, you induce them to stop anticipating stress and return to their flexible form.
- Conduct long stretches to allow the knotted myofascial network to release the stress and loosen up for movement.
- By pressing down and holding the pressure for a few minutes on specific sections of the muscles, you can help them become more flexible. Rubbing, palpitating, and rolling the tissues do provide relief but only for a short while.
- Check with your therapist about the various tools you can use to perform myofascial release therapy on your own. Learn how to use them appropriately so you can release the pressure on your muscles whenever needed.
Benefits of Myofascial Release for Athletes
Of course, the best positive of getting myofascial release therapy is that it keeps athletes’ muscles healthy so they can continue to train and perform well in their sporting events. Here’s how the therapy helps.
- Lighter sensation because muscles are relaxed and movement is free of restrictions
- Better posture and ease in running
- Better range of motion with improved flexibility
- Fewer instances of muscular, back, shoulder, and any other kind of pain
- Better hydration.
- Lower inflammation levels
Myofascial release therapy can prove to be highly beneficial for athletes because it specifically targets the muscles, nerves, joints, and myofascial structures of their bodies. Therapists train extensively to understand the structure and help athletes lower the damage they have and recover quickly and completely. As a result, they can not only continue to perform to the best of their potential but they also avoid long-term adverse effects.
“Myofascial Release for Athletes: Pain, Prevention, Performance.” MFR Brisbane. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Wilson, Rob. “Foam Rollers Don’t Work: Understanding Myofascial Release.” Breaking Muscle. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.
Morgan. “Myofascial Decompression (Cupping Therapy)- The Whats, Whys, and Hows.” Evolution Sports. 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2017.