Getting on a Roll: Self Myofascial Release (SMR)

Monday February 10, 2014

Written By:  Neva Avery, MS, ACSM RCEP, CSCS

If you have not already had the opportunity to experience the benefits of self myofascial release with a foam roller, I encourage you to give it a try. Self myofascial release (SMR) is a fancy term for self-massage. This technique using a foam roller helps to iron out knots, otherwise known as trigger points, in your muscles.  Releasing these trigger points allows for more efficient movement patterns in your workouts and day to day activities. Stretching is helpful but if you take a rope (muscle), tie it in a knot (trigger point) and then stretch it, that knot will only get tighter. Foam rolling helps to release the knot so that stretching will allow a lengthening of the muscle.  A few other benefits include:

  • Correction of muscle imbalances
  • Muscle relaxation
  • Improved joint range of motion
  • Reduced soreness and improved tissue recovery
  • Suppression/reduction of trigger point sensitivity and pain

Prior to exercise, foam rolling allows for a better warm-up and ease of movement throughout the workout. After a workout it can aid in recovery. See the link below for the 5 SMR exercises recommended prior to your workout.

Here are a few important general guidelines for SMR with the foam roller:

  • Do not roll directly over joints, acute injuries or the lower spine.
  • Roll slowly and mindfully and pause on areas that are tight or painful. The tight painful areas are your trigger points. Hold for 30-90 seconds and BREATHE until pain or discomfort decreases.
  • If experiencing extreme pain or numbness…shift your position and/or decrease bodyweight or pressure applied. It should be a feeling similar to a massage therapy session. The sensation may be intense but should be tolerable.
  • Hydrate well after a full session just as you would following a massage therapy session.

If you would like to start foam rolling but are unsure where to begin, click here for the 5 SMR exercises recommended prior to workouts. Roll on!


Source: National Academy of Sports Medicine (