Does Self Myofascial Release Really Work?


Self Myofascial Release Exercise (SMR) really does work, as long as you work them correctly.

In point of fact, Massage Therapy has been used successfully for over 5,000 years and is currently thought to have originated around 3,000 BC.

Massage Therapy has been a popular medical and health modality used around the world, documented in use in many ancient civilizations, including ancient China, Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Julius Caesar (100 to 44 BC) is reported to have used Massage Therapy to relieve some of the pain he earned during his conquests.

Self Myofascial Release (SMR) exercises are “self-massage.” You will typically use some tool such as a foam roller, Theracane, Myoball, or even a Tennis Ball.

What are the benefits of SMR?

There are a great many documented benefits of SMR and Massage Therapy. For you to receive the maximal amount of benefits from SMR, you should plan on doing SMR exercises on a regular basis. Like every other exercise type, performing SMR on a regular basis creates adaptations that leads to multiple benefits, which include:

  • Increases in cardiovascular and cardiorespiratory circulation
  • Increases in oxygen utilization
  • Increases in nutrients getting to vital tissues, muscles and organs
  • Increases in Flexibility
  • Increases in Functional Range of Motion (FROM)
  • Improves elasticity of muscles and other soft tissues
  • Increases endorphin release to reduce pain
  • Decreases adhesions and scar tissue
  • Decreases Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
  • Decreases tension in muscles
  • Decreases Mental Stress
  • Can be an excellent preparatory exercise for higher intensity exercise, such as strength, power or speed training.

When you consider the research from Drs. Schroeder and Donlin, 2013, that reported almost 90% of people currently using personal training services reported to having temporary or chronic musculoskeletal issues, that prevented them from performing even low-level physical activities without experiencing pain, I advise you and every other IFPA Certified Personal Trainer become an expert in self-massage technique like Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) exercises.

I also highly recommend that all IFPA Certified Personal Trainers become experts in Corrective Exercise. You can and must learn proper SMR and Corrective Exercise techniques to get your clients healthy and keep them healthy.

The fastest growing segments of clients hiring personal trainers, is the over 55 demographics. I guaranteed this segment and older segments, will suffer numerous un-corrected musculoskeletal disorders, that you can correct with SMR and Corrective Exercise.

How does SMR work?

Self Myofascial Release works to restore and rejuvenate soft tissues that have been injured, damaged, inflamed, or in a state of imbalance or asymmetry. SMR is extremely beneficial for immediately reducing pain or movement restrictions and allowing inflamed joints to rest and recover.

What is a Typical SMR Exercise Prescription?

  • Frequency: Can be performed daily when necessary and it may be necessary for competitive athletes or those with severe pain, due to musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Intensity: Sufficient intensity to cause pain reduction and adhesions/scar tissue/ “Sore Spots” to “Release.” Caution: Do not apply too much pressure, that you cause additional damage to the target muscle.
  • Time: Typically, 30-60 secs (will vary with client and conditions)
  • Type: General or Specific; use the appropriate tools for each structure, exercise, etc.

Use GPO: Gradual Progressive Overload to Progress as needed. Note:  you may need to REGRESS depending on client and the client’s activities and condition.

Are there contraindications to SMR?


Do NOT use SMR on:

  • Areas of the body that are swollen, badly bruised or acutely inflamed
  • Areas near broken bones
  • Near a blood clot
  • Clients who have acute Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Clients who have aneurysms
  • Clients who have hypersensitive skin, eczema or rashes
  • Clients with very high blood pressure without doctor’s approval
  • Clients with high fever
  • Clients with serious illness or infections disease (i.e. Flu)
  • In the abdominal area if client had abdomen surgery
  • Clients who have osteoporosis
  • Clients with certain types of career

Always use extreme care on clients who are extremely tight or currently in spasm. Do not put pressure on or around varicose veins. Special considerations and training are required when dealing with pregnant clients.

All of us at the IFPA wish you the best of luck in all your training!

Dr. Bell


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