With the rise of sports and fitness, more and more people are engaging in activities such as weightlifting, running, and cycling. Improving muscle soreness after exercise has become a popular topic, and one of the most commonly discussed methods is myofascial release. So, what exactly are the benefits of myofascial release? In this article, we will explore myofascial release, the tools used for myofascial release, and the benefits of myofascial release. Say goodbye to muscle soreness after exercise!
What is myofascial release?
Myofascial (Fascial) refers to the connective tissue that surrounds and support the muscles. It is made up of closely arranged collagen fibers, and it functions like a strong, thin film that encases muscle fibers, connecting them and helping them contract and stretch. It also serves as a protective layer for the muscles. Myofascial release is a method of physical therapy that aims to relieve tension and pain in the myofascial connective tissue. However, there is still some debate in the medical field about the exact definition of myofascial release, with some arguing that the tissue can be relaxed and others stating that it cannot.
Viewpoint 1：that the myofascial tissue can be relaxed
Those who believe that myofascial tissue can be relaxed argue that in addition to muscle fatigue and soreness from lactic acid build-up during exercise, the myofascial tissue also becomes stretched and pulled. If the myofascial tissue loses its elasticity, it can impact muscle function and increase the risk of injury. Therefore, in addition to stretching muscles, utilizing tools such as foam rollers or massage, or incorporating stretching positions can help release myofascial tension and aid in recovery and relief of muscle tightness after exercise.
Viewpoint 2：myofascial tissue cannot be relaxed but the surrounding muscles can be relaxed.
Those who believe that myofascial tissue cannot be relaxed argue that it is a dense connective tissue rich in collagen fibers, and its tough properties earn it the nickname “the body’s second skeleton.” Therefore, it is difficult to use manual force to create changes in the myofascial tissue. Robert Schleip, a German expert in myofascial research, in his research “Fascial plasticity – a new neurobiological explanation” pointed out that myofascial tissue can sense changes in pressure and when certain areas of the myofascial tissue are under stress, it sends signals to the brain to adjust the tension in the tissue in order to prevent injury to the muscle tissue. This in turn leads to a feeling of relaxation in the surrounding muscles. We can imagine the myofascial tissue as a tight-fitting suit that covers the whole body. When the suit feels tight, we do not have to destroy it to relax, but rather, adjust its position to distribute the tension appropriately.
Regardless of the viewpoint, the core concept of myofascial release is to use tools or specific stretching positions to adjust the tension and pressure in the body’s tissues, in order to achieve a feeling of relaxation and release tension.
What are the effects of not performing myofascial release?
It may seem that myofascial release primarily helps to relieve feelings of tension. However, if the discomfort is not severe, is it necessary to perform myofascial release? We must first understand that two-thirds of the myofascial tissue is composed of water, and you can think of it as a sponge filled with water. When we give the myofascial tissue pressure over time without allowing it to properly release, it can lose its elasticity and hydration, leading to pain and stiffness in that area. The muscle stiffness caused by myofascial dehydration can lead to the following impacts:
1. restricted range of motion
2. pain and discomfort
3. reduced flexibility and mobility
4. increased risk of injury
5. poor posture
6. decreased athletic performance
4 major benefits of myofascial release, why should you do it?
Since myofascial release is so important, what are the actual benefits of performing it regularly? In addition to improving athletic performance, myofascial release can bring about the following changes:
1. Improve blood circulation
Muscles fascia can compress the blood vessels surrounding the muscles in a tight state, affecting blood circulation, and thereby reducing the muscle’s oxygen and nutrient supply. Appropriate fascia massage can improve blood circulation and accelerate muscle recovery.
2. Increase joint mobility
Fascia is an elastic connective tissue that not only protects muscles but also provides cushioning for joints, preventing them from wearing down during movement. Keeping fascia relaxed can maintain joint mobility.
3. Improve fat burning efficiency
The body releases a stress hormone called cortisol after intense exercise, which causes blood sugar to rise and increases fat synthesis. Studies have shown that relaxing fascia can lower cortisol levels in the blood, improving the body’s fat-burning efficiency during exercise.
4. Reduce muscle soreness
Many people experience muscle soreness or stiffness after exercise, which can not only affect athletic performance but also daily life. Soreness can be caused by muscle tissue damage, but also by over-tightness of the fascia. By targeting the fascia with massage or relaxation exercises after exercise, it can speed up the recovery from muscle soreness.
（Further reading: 筋肉痛を和らげる方法は？筋肉痛を改善する5つの方法）
3 major muscle relaxation techniques | How to use fascia release tools?
We are taught from a young age that “stretching after exercise is necessary to prevent muscle soreness.” However, stretching only targets the muscles, not the fascia. If you want to release fascia tension, using fascia release tools is recommended. Here are three fascia release tools that you can use:：
1. Fascia release balls
Indeed, small, firm ball-shaped objects such as tennis or golf balls can be used for simple fascia release exercises. The small size of these objects makes them suitable for targeted massage and relaxation on small areas of the body. To use them, place the ball on the sore area and apply pressure using your body weight to release tension in the fascia. In addition, there are various fascia release ball products available on the market that come in different sizes to suit your needs.
2. Foam rollers
Foam rollers are cylindrical-shaped exercise equipment used for self-massage and myofascial release. They are typically made of foam and come in various densities and sizes. They are used by placing the targeted muscle on top of the roller and using your body weight to apply pressure, gently rolling over the area to release tension and tightness in the muscle and surrounding fascia. They can be used to target large areas of the body such as the back, legs and arms, and can help to improve flexibility, range of motion, and reduce muscle soreness and soreness.
3. Massage Gun
Fascia guns are considered one of the most effective fascia release tools, as they use rapid vibration to target specific areas and quickly release tension in deep muscles and fascia. This can allow muscles to recover quickly. When using a fascia gun, it is recommended to choose a product that allows you to adjust the intensity, as different muscle soreness levels may require different levels of intensity to achieve the best results and avoid injury.
Shoulder and neck pain is not only a condition that can occur after exercise, but also a common result of poor posture during work. Using the shoulders and neck as an example, here is a guide on how to use a fascia gun to release fascia tension in these areas.
Start by locating the trigger points in your shoulders and neck. These are the areas where you feel the most tension and discomfort.
Hold the fascia gun with both hands and place the nozzle on the trigger point.
Slowly turn the fascia gun on and start with a low intensity setting. Gradually increase the intensity as you get used to the sensation.
Use circular or back and forth motions to massage the area for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Repeat the process on other trigger points in the shoulders and neck.
All you need is “Pisooka X “
Highly recommend the mini massage gun PISOOKA X for anyone looking for a portable and effective solution for muscle soreness and tension. Its compact size makes it easy to use on the go, and the various attachments allow for targeted relief in specific areas. The powerful motor ensures a deep massage that can help improve circulation and reduce pain. Overall, it’s a great investment for anyone looking to improve their physical recovery and overall well-being.