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Myo-Fascial Release - Use a Foam Roller

Have you ever started off on a run and had aching knees or hips, but soon after a short warm-up jog and light stretch all felt better?  Typically this is how most people start off on a run.  Unfortunately, tendonitis can flare up quickly if running several times a week for several miles.  Myofascial Release (MFR) technique is a great way to relieve the post-exercise soreness as well as help with pre-exercise warm-up as well.   Today we will discuss two ways to do MFR: 

Check out Youtube video of Stew doing these exercises:

1 – The Foam Roller – Maybe you have seen these tubes of foam in the gym and thought it was an abdominal exercise device as it does require positions that work the abs often.  I use the foam roller for four main areas that cause me trouble from several workouts each week:

a.       ITB – Illiotibial Band – Simply lay on your side like you were performing a side plank pose but place the foam roller under your hip. Place your body weight into the roller and move your arms to roll your body over from the hip to below your knee.  This fully “rolls out” the ITB and it will be painful if your fascia needs loosening.  I was able to run all summer / fall with a minor ITB syndrome without flaring into a major injury that sidelined me from running simply by rolling out my ITB daily.

b.      Lower and Upper Back – This one just feel great!  Roll from your lower back all the way just below your neck to feel what I call the “poor man’s masseuse“.  This loosens up the entire back and will also work the abs as you have to stay flexed and balanced on the roller as you move from the top to the bottom of your back.  Relax and breathe as you roll.


c.       Piriformis / hips – Sit on the foam roller and cross your legs.  Lean slightly on the side of the crossed leg and relax into the tender spot.  Roll each side for 1-2 minutes until the roll is comfortable.

d.      Rhomboids and Mid back region – Place the foam roller parallel to your spine and roll back and forth across the spine and just into the upper and lower back muscles that run along the spine.  Roll back and forth for 1-2 minutes and relax with deep breaths.

Related links – see         self-myofascial-release  using foam rollers

2 – The Body Worker – The practitioner of MFR will use knuckles, elbows, other tools to apply pressure to fascia that needs loosening.  It is quite painful during the process of breaking up the scar tissue (restricted fascia) of previous injuries, but it is remarkable how muscles, joints, soft tissue of the body can feel after just one session.   Many call this deep tissue massage.  A helpful link is:

·         Myofascial- Release

For more information see the book, An Osteopathic Approach to Diagnosis and Treatment (Third ed.). It explains why and how this process works.  

“Myofascial release is a form of soft tissue therapy used to treat somatic dysfunction and accompanying pain and restriction of motion. This is accomplished by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation, increasing venous and lymphatic drainage, and stimulating the stretch reflex of muscles and overlying fascia.”   The author Eileen DiGiovanna continues:

“Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support and protection for most structures within the human body, including muscle. This soft tissue can become restricted due to psychogenic disease, overuse, trauma, infectious agents, or inactivity, often resulting in pain, muscle tension, and corresponding diminished blood flow. Although fascia and its corresponding muscle are the main targets of myofascial release, other tissue may be affected as well, including other connective tissue.”

I hope this was helpful to you.  If you are feeling the sting of a few nagging injuries or simple overuse injuries, give this a try, but you should always visit your doctor before attempting to self-treat or self-medicate.

Some ideas to save money:

I use the foam roller everyday to roll out the IT bands, lower / upper back, as well as hips and glutes.  This tool is a must have for the active person.  I have discovered however, if you use a foam roller everyday that within a month, the foam has lost its hardness and is not as effective.  So I use the Indo-Board balance cylinder as it is tough plastic and will not soften.  In fact, it is so hard, what I do is wrap a thick bath towel around it to give it just the perfect amount of cushion I need to roll out the body.  This saves me about $30 a month from buying new foam rollers.

For more information on programs that will help you pass any physical fitness test, check out the Fitness Store - and of course email Stew Smith at for more info or answers to any questions.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the
Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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