The Healing Power Of Self Myofascial Release

About two years ago when I was training for an Olympic-distance triathlon, what is usually just a little tightness in my hips evolved into what is called (and this is admittingly self-diagnosed) ‘pseudo-sciatica’. Essentially, tightness in the piriformis, gluteal and other related muscles causes sciatica- like symptoms (pain in the lower back via one of the buttocks, along the path of the sciatic nerve at the back of a leg down to the toes).  The pain stopped me dead in my tracks.

I got introduced to the concept of self myofascial release with a foam roll almost 10 years ago and have since used it myself and with training clients with great success.  But regular foam rolling of my IT Bands/glute area/hips was almost miraculous in this particular scenario; within a couple of weeks the pain was significantly decreased and I was able to resume regular training.  Since then, I’ve been seriously sold on the technique –

I have a great article for you here about the benefits of self myofascial release using a foam roll and the basics of how to do it. I hope you enjoy it.

– Forest

Self Myofascial Release Using A Foam Roller
By Jesse Retherford

Deep tissue massage therapy modalities such as myofascial release improves flexibility, function, and performance; speeds up the recovery process; and reduces chronic pain and injury risk. Regular deep tissue massage breaks down adhesions and scar tissue that form in the fascia. With the use of a few simple, inexpensive tools (foam roller and a soft ball), you can perform daily self-myofascial release (SMR) and receive much of the same benefits as weekly professional bodywork.

How does self-myofascial release work?

Fascia is a three-dimensional fibrous matrix interconnected throughout the body from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. Fascia surrounds muscles, bones, and joints providing the body structural integrity and strength. Dysfunctional fascia is a leading cause of chronic pain, reduced flexibility, and decreased athletic performance.

Located within the muscle and tendon tissue are two sensory receptors called the muscle spindle and golgi tendon organ. These sensory receptors monitor muscular and tendon tension from the surrounding tissue and relates it to your nervous system. They are highly sensitive to changes in muscle tension and rate of change. Stimulation of the golgi tendon organ leads to a decrease in soft tissue tension.

Placing pressure directly on tight or overly toned muscle tissue using deep tissue massage therapy or self-myofascial release techniques stimulates the golgi tendon organ to relax tension in the soft tissue. The decrease in soft tissue tension can be used to reduce pain, break down scar tissue adhesions, increase joint mobility, and improve overall function.


  • correct muscle imbalances
  • increase joint range of motion
  • decrease muscle soreness and relieve joint stress
  • decrease tight or overly toned muscle tissue
  • increase extensibility of muscle and tendon tissue
  • increase performance
  • maintain normal functional muscular length

What to do

Self-myfascial techniques are very simple to learn. One of the best tools for self-myofascial release is the foam roller.

Place your body weight on the foam roller over taut bands of muscle tissue that need to be released. For the best results, begin near the center of the body and slowly work away from the center of the body. Breathe, relax your body, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. If you find a painful spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow the pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a significant reduction in pain. Repeat this until you have reduced all the painful tissue.

The first couple of weeks of foam roller therapy more than likely will be painful. It is important to be diligent. The payoff is well worth it. If you use the foam roller every day, within a couple of weeks you will begin to notice not only does the exercise not hurt as much but also it will begin to feel really good.

Self-myofascial release on a foam roller offers an effective, inexpensive, and convenient way to get regular deep tissue massage therapy. For the most effective self-myofascial release techniques, I offer a foam roller therapy session geared towards beginner, intermediate, and advanced users.

Jesse James Retherford is a licensed massage therapist and personal trainer with over 12 years of industry experience. He opened The Art of Fitness in 1998. Jesse James specializes in deep tissue massage techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy to help his clients with chronic pain and injury management, movement assessment, corrective exercise, and advanced sports conditioning.

Jesse attended Texas State University focusing his studies in exercise and sports sciences, including kinesiology, exercise physiology, biomechanics, business management, and nutrition.

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13 Responses to The Healing Power Of Self Myofascial Release

  1. Dan Szepesi says:

    That is the exact thing that I have been fighting for several years. Mine is worse when i am standing. I have tried tons of PT, SURGERY (damn crooks), Chiro, Accupuncture and nothing is working. Can you detail your foam rolling routine so i can try it? As a fat dude, i hate foam rolling but i’ll give it a shot.

    The only thing that has shown promise, btw, has been adding a posterior chain warmup series before i lift. OH front lunge, side lungs, rear lung, BW squats with a belt around my knees….all to try and reactivate dead glutes from years of sitting at a desk.

    • admin says:

      Sorry to hear that, Dan. Just foam rolling the IT Bands daily in my case was a huge help – what you have going on sounds like it might be a lot worse, but it’s probably worth a try!


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  4. Laura says:

    Hi Forest –
    I’m a massage therapist and studied Myofascial Release with John Barnes, PT, a number of years ago. The foam rollers are great. I also have a 4″-diameter and a 5″-diameter therapy ball. These are great for getting those tight, hard-to-reach spots like the piriformis, rhomboids, and upper traps. Thanks for your post!

    • admin says:

      Very cool! Yes, lots of great tools besides just the foam roll for this technique/method –

      Massage is also great and pretty hard to beat for getting out those adhesions/restoring mobility/ etc. But stuff we can do on our own is great for between visits! 🙂


  5. Cliff says:

    Dan, I was surprised to hear the D.C. didn’t help. Mine is the guy who introduced me to the foam roller and SMR. I had serious IT problems (it felt like a butcher knife was getting stabbed into my leg) and the D. C.’s used a specialized form of myfascial release called active release techniques. You may want to find a provider and try that. The initial treatment was very painful but it really helped.

    • admin says:

      I’ve also used active release with my chiro and it’s worked wonders for me, too – good recommendation on something to try.


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