One of the comments I got about the last post regarding the effects of self myofascial release (SMR) on performance was about how it affects recovery. As with studies on SMR and performance, the research on how it affects recovery are also quite limited. It also depends on what factors you consider when you think of recovery. Immediately after exercise, we have what you could consider general recovery when the heart rate, blood pressure, and internal body temperature are returning to resting levels. We also have muscle recovery, which can take much longer if you consider soreness, which occurs from high intensity or long duration exercise. Personally, I’m more concerned with if and how SMR can help my sore muscles after a week of intense training, but unfortunately I could find no research studies on this topic.
It’s not that there aren’t studies on SMR and pain, but the populations used in these studies have some kind of pathology-fibromyalgia, breast cancer, pelvic malalingments. At a glance, SMR seems to be helpful for these groups but as anyone in science knows we shouldn’t directly transfer results from one population to another. However, it would make sense that if SMR relieves pain in someone with a disease affecting their fascia, people with soreness due to exercise would likely experience some benefit too. So as I’m writing this, it gives me the idea to compare the study I reviewed earlier that measured inflammatory markers in muscles with painful trigger points and see how they compare to subjects with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes generalized pain throughout the entire body because of its affects on myofascial tissue. Exploring this connection is not where I intended to go when I began writing this, but after reading a little bit it seems relevant so here we go. If you want a thorough refresher on what I discussed regarding inflammation in the muscles, review Myofascial Release Part 2. You can access previous entries by clicking on the blog title “The Biomechanic” at the top of the page.
One study on fibromyalgia measured several inflammatory markers, among other things. When I compared the results of this study to the previously mentioned study measuring biochemical markers in active trigger points I found a few similarities. Between the two studies, there were 3 inflammatory markers in common (cytokines IL-6, IL-8, and tumor necrosis factor alpha-don’t worry if you don’t know what these are, I just feel the need to specify for anyone who might). In both studies, the concentrations of these markers were compared to normal subjects and found that they were higher in subjects with both fibromyalgia and active trigger points. Although the causes are much different, this indicates that there could be some similarities in what causes pain in both conditions. If SMR helps relieve the symptoms of one it is possible to work for both. Considering the amount of research that is being done on fibromyalgia, this could potentially be helpful for research on myofascial release in athletic population.
Even without scientific research to explain how and why, athletes who use the foam roller and other SMR tools know they work. I’ll be getting into SMR tool selection and use next.
Bazzichi, L., Rossi, A., Massimetti, G., et al. Cytokine patterns in fibromyalgia and their correlation with clinical manifestations, Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology, 2007, 25: 225-230.
Shah, J.P., Danoff, J.V., Desai, M.J., et al. Biochemicals Associated With Pain and Inflammation are Elevated in Sites Near to and Remote From Active Myofascial Trigger Points. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, Vol 89, January 2008.