When one thinks of relieving pain and tightness in the body, ibuprofen and stretching may come to mind. And while there’s nothing wrong with stretching it out, sometimes it just may not seem to do the trick. Sometimes, it’s really the body’s fascia that needs a little TLC.
Enter myofascial release. Myo-what-now? Let’s unpack this, starting with what fascia is in the first place.
Fascia is the sheet of connective tissue that spreads all over the human body—kind of like a thin, superhero-style suit under the skin that attaches, stabilizes and separates the dermal layers from the internal organs, joints, blood vessels, and nerves. Sounds important, right? It is, especially if you’re an active person.
As humans, when we engage in physical exercise (or, conversely, when we’re too sedentary) the fascia can experience adhesions, fibrosis, and lack of elasticity, which can lead to that oh-so-familiar “tight” or “stiff” feeling. And when this happens, it can prohibit flexibility and movement, therefore cramping your style out there on the trail or tennis court.
Luckily, there’s a myriad of ways to loosen up your thin little bodysuit: through myofascial release. Exercises to release the fascia in this way place targeted pressure on a given point of tension and can be done either with a professional physical therapist or on your own through the use of various tools such as the foam roller, lacrosse ball and rolling stick.
In the Sun Valley area, outdoor activities reign supreme. For many, it’s why we live here in the first place. With that in mind, we chatted with Dr. Aaron Stern of Ketchum Chiropractic to find out some of the best myofascial release exercises tailored to a few of the activities we’ll be enjoying this season:
FOR THE TENNIS PLAYER
Focus: Latissimus Dorsi (AKA: ‘lats’)
Equipment: Lacrosse Ball
- While leaning the right side of your body against a wall, lift your arm overhead and place lacrosse ball just under your right armpit.
- Slowly roll up and down the length of your lat, ensuring you’re only placing tension
on the muscle.
- To really release some sticky points, hold the ball a little longer on the points of tension.
- Continue for 1-2 minutes and repeat on your left side.
FOR THE HIKER
Focus: Gluteus Maximus (AKA: ‘glutes’)
Equipment: Foam Roller
Sit on a foam roller and reach your right arm behind you, planting your right hand on the floor a few inches behind you. Cross your right ankle over your left knee in a figure-four position. FOR
- Slightly shift your weight to the right hip/glute area and roll back and forth a few inches in each direction for about 30 seconds.
- Spend another 30 seconds breathing as you roll in tiny circular movements.
Repeat on the opposite side.
FOR THE MOUNTAIN BIKER
Equipment: The Stick
- Sit in a chair with your legs bent at a 90 degree angle, feet flat on the floor.
- Hold a rolling stick at both ends, roll back and forth from knee to hip across one quadricep roughly 20 times.
- Repeat on the opposite quad.
FOR THE RUNNER
Focus: Longitudinal Arch of Foot
Equipment: Lacrosse Ball
- Place ball under the middle arch of
- Roll length-wise from front to back
for about 30 seconds.
- Repeat on the opposite foot. 2