foam rolling

Sports and Myofascial Release

When it comes to sports, fascia can be your friend or foe. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, John Barnes Myofascial Release is essential for stellar performance, less injury, and staying on top of your game as you age.

fascia manMyo means muscle and fascia is connective tissue. According to the International Congress on Fascia, “Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system that permeates the human body. It forms a whole-body continuous three-dimensional matrix…”.  For muscles to contract and relax and tissues to glide against one another during movement, fascia must be hydrated and pliable.  Fascia is also the body’s shock absorber and when it becomes stiff or restricted force disperses unevenly throughout the body, leading to injury. Did you know tight fascia can even prevent muscle firing and lead to muscle weakness?

Fascia becomes tight and stuck in athletes for many reasons.  The healing process after trauma, surgery, and muscle tears can leave layers of fascia to stuck together (adhesions).  Poor body mechanics, repetitive strain, and chronic inflammation can cause tightness in fascia that doesn’t respond to traditional stretching.  Unfortunately, as we age, fascia becomes stiffer and less pliable.

John Barnes Myofascial Release is an effective form of bodywork that can get you moving with more ease.  It’s a non-aggressive modalitydr. g fascia that produces profound results. Your therapist will gently elongate your fascia for a minimum of 3-5 minutes, releasing the elasto-collagenous complex. No lubrication is used and your therapist may work in areas that seem unrelated to your symptoms.  This is because the fascial system is completely interconnected.

After a few sessions you will notice greater range of motion, less pain, and better performance. Even long-standing injuries respond to the gentle methods used in John Barnes Myofascial Release.  The longer you’ve been experiencing problems, the more sessions it may take to get you back in top form.  However, including self-myofascial release in your daily care regimen will speed up the results exponentially.

Where is fascia in my body?

Let’s imagine your body were an orange.  This is how your fascia would be arranged:

  • Superficial fascia is like the thick, white, hard tissue that attaches the orange to the peel.  In us it holds the skin to the body and provides a framework for subcutaneous fat.
  • Inner Layer-  Deep fascia is like the white fibers that separate the sections of an orange. For us, it separates our organs and keeps them in place. Without deep fascia our organs would drop down into our legs every time we stand!
  • Cellular Level- Cellular fascia is like the white fibers that weave through a single slice.  It holds the slice together and holds in the juice. In our bodies, cellular fascia keeps the 70% of our bodies that is fluid in the right place.

What does fascia do in my body?*

  • Supports and stabilizes, enhancing the postural balance of the body.

  • Is vitally involved in all aspects of motion and acts as a shock absorber.

  • Aids in circulatory economy, especially in venous and lymphatic fluids.

  • Fascial change will often precede chronic tissue congestion, creating fibrous tissue.

  • Is a major area of inflammatory processes.

  • Has it’s own contractile forces that allow fascia to contract during fight-or-flight.

  • When tight, can inhibit muscle firing, leading to weakness.

*John F. Barnes, PT

There’s no reason to be stuck on the side lines.  Call 901-496-2881 to schedule your first appointment for John Barnes Myofascial Release.

Does Foam Rolling Really Release Fascia?

Foam rollers are the hottest tool for self-care today. Many of my clients say they have watched videos or read instructions in magazines and use them for self-myofascial release. However, they only get limited and temporary relief from tightness. It looks simple enough. What could be going wrong? Does foam rolling even release fascia?

To figure that out, we need to understand fascia. Fascia is a three-dimensional web of tough connective tissue. It pervades the entire body down to the cellular level. You have probably seen it before in the tough, glistening layers of a steak. Or in the thin, white, sticky layers of chicken that are difficult to cut. Repetitive stress, injury, trauma, or disease processes cause fascia to solidify and harden. A classic example would be a tight, hard IT band. Tight fascia pulls on adjacent tissues, and in our example of the IT band, could lead to knee pain, a pulled hamstring, pelvic rotation, hip pain, etc.

foam femaleFascia is made of collagen, elastin, and a gel-like ground substance. For permanent, physiological change, the collagenous portion of fascia must release. Research* has shown that the collagenous component of fascia releases with a low load of pressure over an extended period of time (minimum 3-5 minutes). This is the method used in John Barnes Myofascial Release. Any releases that occur before 3-5 minutes affect only the elastic component of fascia.

When we understand fascia, it is easy to see why my clients weren’t getting a true release. In demonstrations, foam rolling is done much more quickly. It is also done with an aggressive amount of force. This means that only the elastic component releases. Fascial creep eventually causes the tightness to return. Just like a rubber band that stretches, but then shortens to its original length.

So do I tell my clients to toss their foam rollers? Not at all! They can be helpful tools for self-myofascial release if used properly. Follow these principles used in John Barnes Myofascial Release:

foam female2• Find an area of tightness or tenderness with the foam roller.

• Wait a minimum of 3-5 minutes for the release to begin. (This will feel like butter melting or a piece of taffy being gently stretched)

• Follow the release three-dimensionally to the next area of tightness or tenderness, then repeat steps one and two.

• DO NOT force the tissues.

• Stay aware of what you are feeling at all times.

Don’t have foam rollers at home? Use these principles with any self-care tool including Nola Rolas, 3” or 4” balls, tennis balls, or racquetballs.

I would love to hear about your experiences with self-care and the results you’ve gotten. Your questions are always welcome.

*From research presented at the International Congress on Fascia. For more information visit