Nobody likes aches and pains. The good news is there’s a safe and effective method to get rid of aches and pains, whether they come from too much sitting, exercising, a nagging injury or enjoying the weekend gardening.
I’ve been successfully using a specific method from my corrective exercise training for over a decade with very satisfied clients.
In today’s wellness news, I’ll break the method down into 5 topics. Each topic will have a sprinkle of the body science followed by a simplified explanation.
And there’s a surprise take-away at the end!
Get ready, it’s a bit of a read……….with a great ending.
Here are the 5 topics we’ll cover, including a BONUS:
- Causes of muscle aches and pains
- Limitations of static stretching
- The Power of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)
- How SMR works
- BONUS: A How-to-Do SMR User Guide to get rid of aches and pains
Many aches and pains in the body accumulate over time.
From: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training (1)
Poor posture and repetitive movements can create dysfunction within the connective tissue of the human movement system. This dysfunction is treated by the body as an injury and will initiate a repair process termed the cumulative injury cycle.
Restated in simpler terms…Think ergonomics. Bad posture, overdoing certain exercises or doing certain movements over and over can cause dysfunction to internal layers of tissue that support the body. When this happens, a negative cycle happens and pain emerges.
More about the Cumulative Injury Cycle…
Any trauma to the tissue of the body creates inflammation. Inflammation in turn activates the body’s pain receptors and initiates a protective mechanism, increasing muscle tension and causing muscle spasm. These muscle spasms are not like a calf cramp where the entire muscle temporarily contracts. Instead, the heightened activity of muscle spindles in particular areas of the muscle create, in essence, a microspasm.
As a result of the microspasm, adhesions (“knots” or “trigger points”) will begin to form in the soft tissue. These adhesions form a weak, inelastic (unable to stretch) matrix that decreases normal elasticity of the soft tissue. Left unchecked, these adhesions can begin to form permanent structural damage in the soft tissue.
See the diagram below of the Cumulative Injury Cycle.
Said in simpler terms…When the body gets any type of minor injury, inflammation occurs. With inflammation, the body tries to protect itself. When it protects itself, it develops tension, tightness and knots. These knots, if not addressed, limit the body’s ability to move freely AND contribute to aches, pains, and sometimes cramps.
2. Limitations of Static Stretching
Arguably, static stretching (holding a muscle in a stretched position with low force to allow for a muscle to relax) is what we are most familiar with. In fact, it has been the most common flexibility technique used over the past half century.
Static stretching has been thought to prep the body for exercise and prevent injury. But it’s not as effective as many might think or been told!
Research shows that stretching before or after exercise has little or no effect on decreasing muscle soreness later. (2)
Also, stretching was thought to prevent injury and improve athletic performance. Unfortunately, what most people do not know is that isolated static stretching immediately before exercise may impair a person’s strength and power and has no effect on injury prevention. (3)
Simply stated… Static stretching doesn’t improve performance, prevent injury or get rid of muscle aches and pains. It does increase the ability to tolerate a stretch, but the benefits are short-lived unless you stretch every day.
If static stretching by itself does not provide much of a benefit, what works for getting rid of muscle knots that are associated with aches and pains?
3. The Power of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)
What gets rid of muscle aches and pains?
Something called Self-Myofascial Release or SMR for short.
From: Micheal A. Clark, DPT, MS, PES, CES, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM)
Self-myofascial (SMR) techniques may help in “releasing” the microspasms (knots) that develop in traumatized tissue and “break up” the fascial adhesions that are created through the cumulative injury cycle process, thus potentially improving the tissue’s ability to lengthen.
In simple terms…SMR helps a person get rid of knots in the body. Getting rid of knots helps get rid of the aches and pains associated with movement limitations caused by the knots (trigger points). This helps a person feel, function and perform better.
4. How SMR Works
From: National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training
External pressure stimulates receptors located throughout the muscle, fascia, and connective tissues of the human movement system to override the dysfunctional yet protective mechanism caused by the cumulative injury cycle. The Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) is one proposed receptor that responds to tension. SMR stimulates the GTOs to increase range of motion.
Stated simply…A little manual pressure to the knots in the body activates stuff to help break up the knots. When the knots break up, the body can move more freely again, back to its normal range of motion.
Top 5 Benefits of SMR
- Release Knots – Helps decrease the overall tension caused by stress on the human movement system.
- Get Oxygen & Nutrients – Increases vasodilation, the tissue can receive adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients as well as removal of waste byproducts (via blood) to facilitate tissue recovery and repair.
- Move Pain-free – CChanges the viscosity of the tissue allowing for better tissue dynamics, which may provide better overall muscle contraction and joint motion.
- Reduce Injury Risk – Decreases sympathetic tone reducing the prolonged faulty contraction of muscle tissue that can lead to cumulative injury cycle.
- Breathe Easier – Affects respiration that can lead to better oxygen content in blood as well as decrease feelings of anxiety and fatigue.
In simple terms…SMR helps get rid of stress held within the body. SMR increases blood flow to keep tissues functioning better so that the body moves, recovers from activity, repairs from injury and breathes better.
5. Bonus: A How to Do SMR User Guide to Get Rid of Muscle Aches and Pains
In this section, you’ll find a link to a downloadable guide I customized and prepared just for you. But, before you open the guide, you’ll need to find the right tool for your body.
Now let’s look at the four recommended tools for SMR.
They include a soft foam roller, a high density foam roller, a Master of Muscle foam roller and a Thera Cane massager.
Here’s a bit about each one.
For SMR beginners, I’d recommend a soft foam roller like this one.
For folks with a little more tolerance to a deeper massage, I’d recommend SMR with a high density foam roll (black) like this one.
For fitness seekers and athletes, I’d recommend the Master of Muscle foam roller for SMR.
In addition to foam rolling, SMR can be applied to the upper back area, around the neck and lower back. People who tend to get tight muscles in those areas can benefit from a Thera Cane massager. This candy cane shaped instrument (shown below) can be applied directly to the muscle knots to loosen them up to feel better!
Once you find the right tool, you are ready to download the “How-to-Do SMR Guide” (note: user guide will open on computers, but may not be viewable from some mobile devices).
Remember – if you have aches and pains, it’s always good to first check with your doctor before starting any new performance enhancing practices.
- Causes – Aches and pains are often related to “knots” that form in the soft tissues of body due to repetitive movements, overtraining or poor posture.
- Limitations of Static Stretching – Static stretching alone does not improve performance or decrease risk for injury.
- The Power of SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) – SMR is a great corrective exercise method that helps to get rid of aches and pains, and has been shown to be more effective than static stretching.
- How SMR works – SMR gets rid of aches and pains by stimulating the GTO receptors in tissues to increase range of motion. Recommended tools for SMR include soft foam rolls for beginners, high density foam rolls for folks with a greater tolerance to deeper massage, Master of Muscle foam roller for athletes, and Thera canes for folks with upper back and next tension.
- Bonus: A How-to-Do SMR Guide – To learn how to get rid of aches and pains to improve everyday performance, download the How to Do SMR User Guide by clicking here.
For more info, I’d recommend The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.
Thank you for reading!
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(1) National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training.
(2) John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Stretching Out Does Not Prevent Soreness After Exercise, ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2007.
(3) Fields, M.D. et al. (2007), Should Athletes Stretch Before Exercise.
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