SMR sounds like a medical test of some sort, doesn’t it? Unless you’re a personal trainer or you’ve taken a session with me, you might not have a clue about what it is or even how beneficial it can be. I’m here to tell you that you need it, and you need it good.
Self myofascial release (SMR) is a technique that can be used to stretch our muscles, keeping us loose and limber. It uses pointed pressure to diminish tension in the fascia, which is the connective tissue layer that covers our skeletal muscles. When you do SMR, it can feel similar to a deep tissue massage; it’s slightly painful while you’re doing it, but afterwards your muscles feel looser and more relaxed. Although SMR is considered an alternative therapy, you’ve likely already done SMR unknowingly. If you’ve used a foam roller after a workout before, then you too have done a version of SMR. The aim, whether you use a foam roller, tennis ball, or lacrosse ball, is to release tightness of the fascia by massaging it out. When the fascia is “released,” it’s thought that our muscles have greater range of motion and less soreness. As you’re moving over your foam roller or ball, you’re improving blood flow and lymphatic circulation, in addition to stimulating the stretch reflex in the muscles you’re targeting. The result tends to be feeling less overall tension and pain in your body. And who doesn’t want that?
Before jumping right into some juicy SMR, here are some little tidbits to know:
If you’ve never done SMR before, start with a foam roller. It covers a greater area so it’s not as intense as using a ball. Once you’re ready to graduate to a ball, a tennis ball delivers a less intense sensation than a lacrosse ball as it has more give.
It’s going to hurt. I know, I know, if it’s not fun why do it? Just like a deep tissue massage, SMR is uncomfortable while you’re doing it, but releases overall tension in the long run.
Be careful, and listen to your body. I say this all the time, but it’s important to listen when your body is telling you to stop. When you’re using a ball, you’ll know if you’re hitting the targeted muscle because it will definitely be uncomfortable (refer to point number 2 again).
This isn’t a substitute for movement. Just like a massage isn’t a substitute for a workout. Although I wish that were the case! Even if you feel less tense after SMR you should still find other ways to move and stretch. Muscles need to be used!
SMR also isn’t a substitute for sound medical practice. There have been wild claims that SMR can cure cancer and is a replacement for conventional treatment. I don’t support those claims and am merely suggesting this as a way to stretch and increase mobility.
I hope this blog has encouraged you to give SMR a try! Foam rollers are a great way to start, and there are many tutorials online to use them. On the Bodypeace app, I have several short sessions that use tennis balls to open up targeted muscle groups. Be sure to stay tuned for its launch! Until then, you can always reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.