As a personal trainer in Dallas I get exposed to all types of people in terms of posture, fitness level, and personality types. Some of my clients are athletes but the majority of them are business professionals that work in office environments. For both of these types of clients, I spend about a quarter of our time together performing muscle activation techniques and myofascial release targeting the regions that are specific to each clients mechanical imbalances. In case you didn’t pick up on the last sentence, I basically answered the question that I posed in the title of this blog…myofascial release is NOT just for athletes.
Before I get into why myofascial release is a good treatment for everyone, I am going to break down the properties of muscle tissue and fascia in layman’s terms. It’s a topic that is quite complex and varied…so, I am giving you a quick run down. Think of fascia tissue as a tough outer sheath that encapsulates your entire muscular system. This fascia tissue can become constricted and less pliable creating areas in the body that have muscle imbalances. When this happens, the fascia tissue becomes tight and can pull on the underlying muscle in the affected area. This typically means the muscles underneath the fascia aren’t functioning properly and can adversly affect our posture and muscle functionality.
You have muscles in your body that are required to maintain your basic posture. There are four properties that make up muscle tissue which are contractility, excitability, extensibility and elasticity. Contractility is the ability of a muscle to shorten and contract with force. Excitability means to generate an action response when responding to a stimulus. Extensibility is the ability of the muscle to stretch or get longer. Elasticity is the ability of the muscle to return to it’s previous or what I will refer to as it’s neutral state. As I mentioned earlier, when fascia tissue becomes tight it can affect these four properties of the muscle tissue. If the fascia tissue pulls on a particular muscle it can cause it to lose some of it’s property of elasticity, meaning it will never be able to return to it’s normal shape because it’s being pulled on. This can either mean it’s constantly in a contracted state and the opposing muscle group can be in a elongated state or the opposite holds true where the muscle is being pulled in an elongated state and the opposing muscle is in a contracted state.
A real world example of this is desk posture…where a person’s hamstrings or the muscles in the back of your legs become shortened because your hamstring is in a flexed or contracted state while you are sitting. The opposing muscle group to the hamstrings are your quadriceps or the front of your thigh, which can typically become elongated or weakened as they are more in an elongated position when you sit. Over time your fascia and muscle tissue will conform to this state and can create havoc on your posture especially in your hips in regards to this example. A good way to think of your muscles in regards to your skeletal system is a system of levers and pulleys that are constantly being acted upon as you move sit, stand or whatever particular position or movement you are performing at the time. The more time you spend in a certain position or performing a repetitive motion your body will begin to adapt by conforming to that position or motion.
Another example of your fascia and muscle tissue conforming to a particular position or in the case a repetitive motion occurs in many athletes that perform repetitive motions with their respective sports. These repetitive motions are often performed on the athletes dominant side such as a right-handed baseball player swinging a bat in the same position time after time. This repetition can lead to imbalances such as twisted hips because the muscles on the dominant side can become much stronger compared to the opposite side. Whether you work in an office or are an athlete, you can counteract all of these forces through muscle activation techniques, myofascial release and stretching.
I have many clients who came to me with lower back pain…which is usually a sign of tight hamstrings as they will pull on the lumbar or lower region of your spine and will cause pain. I can quickly relieve their pain by performing simple myofascial release techniques. This needs to be done on a consistent basis in order to get the fascia and tissue to return to it’s normal state of elasticity. With a little bit of know how you can perform myofascial relief on yourself with a foam roller and a tennis ball just to name a couple of tools. This can be done while your watching your favorite program at home or after you train. Start foam rolling today and yes I’m talking to you! If your still unsure and want more info click here.