What’s So Fascinating About Fascia and SMFR

In this article I wanted to talk about some of the benefits of self-myo-fascial release also known as SMFR, as there is a lot of “FAKE NEWS” running around in regards to how to treat your fascia. Many of you may be wondering what your fascia is, so let us begin describing our fascia a little more. The fascia is an inter-connecting web, covering and penetrating every, muscle, bone, nerve, artery, and vein, along with every internal organ. The fascia is one of the most intriguing body parts, as it is in every one of us; one giant continuous structure, that connects every muscle in our body. Fascia is the soft tissue portion of the connective tissue in the muscle that provides support and protection, and it can become restricted due to overuse, trauma, and inactivity, leading to inflammation and potential injury.


So if the fascia is so large and important, you must be wondering why we haven’t heard much about it or why there is not scientific evidence in regards to how to take care of it. The answer is quite simple as we still don’t know a lot about it, which leads us down a corridor of confusion, contradiction, and fad ideas on how to benefit from the mechanisms of how it works.


With the new concepts of its increased importance of having healthy muscle fascia, surrounded by physical properties we have yet to be able to fully understand, comes an open window blowing in hot air concepts of how we should be treating it. Too often I see health professionals and health enthusiasts pushing a mindset of “NO PAIN, NO GAIN”, although this can be used to help you push harder, longer, stronger, it may not be the best slogan for a realist. This idea can cause damage and leave you with an injury that could work its way up your kinetic chain, causing a domino effect. This could sideline you for an extended period of time, or even in some cases, cause permanent damage.


The “NO PAIN, NO GAIN” slogan has picked up momentum in the SMFR community as a way to treat sore or injured muscles, but this theory is wildly inaccurate and detrimental to one’s overall fitness. “Smashing” your tissues cannot and will not fix any injury or muscle soreness. There really is no need to cause severe pain to achieve SMFR benefits. There is no time or place to smash healthy fascia, let alone an injury. This type of thinking would be synonymous to shooting yourself in an injury as to heal this specific spot faster. Force applied to an already torn down tissue will not create a beneficial environment, in any scenario.


This leads me to the topic at hand on how to perform SMFR appropriately. Self-myofascial release (SMFR) is a technique that uses foam rollers and exercise balls (among other things) to attain a deeper stretch than what you can achieve from standard stretching techniques.


After extended use of muscles in specific movement patterns, your muscles can develop calcium build up from repetitive breaking down and repairing of that tissue. When the movement patterns are not consistently changed there becomes a chronic healing in the same muscle site time and time again. SMFR techniques work to reverse this process, and can be used both prior to a workout and as part of the recovery process. The process is simple: for instance, in the foam roller technique, the roller is rolled under each muscle group until a tender area is found, and then pressure is maintained on that area for 30 to 60 seconds. Here are some of the biggest advantages to incorporating SMFR into your workout routine.

  1. Increased flexibility and improve joint range of motion: One of the main benefits of SMFR is in the area of overall flexibility. Rolling on a foam roller kneads muscles and soothes joints, which not only keeps muscles from tightening up but actually stimulates a greater range of motion throughout the body. The deep stretching involved in SMFR also lengthens muscles to further improve flexibility.
  2. Improved muscle balance: Using SMFR foam roller techniques not only feels great but it can actually correct any muscle imbalances in the body. In fact, recent studies have shown that by helping muscles to relax and loosen, SMFR removes all and any muscle restrictions that may have once been present, preparing the body for a workout and/or helping it to recover post workout.
  3. Decreased muscle soreness: SMFR can not only relieve muscle and joint soreness post workout, but it can actually prevent it when the technique is used before a workout. SMFR targets muscles and engages joints in a way that induces deep muscular relaxation. Used before a workout, it can balance hormones and keep lactic acid from forming, and used afterward, it can clear lactic acid, preventing the onset of soreness.
  4. Healthier blood flow: SMFR oxygenates the blood similarly to exercise but in a different way. By engaging muscular tension and releasing knots and stiffness, SMFR techniques actually open neural pathways and engage the organs as well as the muscles. This in turn stimulates lymph movement and increases blood flow, getting fresh healthy oxygen to all centers of the body.

Even though we are still unknowing of the mechanisms that lead to the benefits, there are studies to prove that this does work. The benefits of SMFR are many and in fact have the backing of the athletic community, as well. SMFR is used by strength coaches as well as certified personal trainers and athletes to lengthen muscles, increase mobility, oxygenate blood, remove muscle soreness, and boost fitness performances.