“Why do I have to do muscle release whilst I’m at my clinical pilates session?”
Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on breathing, control, posture, stability, balance, functional movement, flexibility and precision. Clinical Pilates at Beyond is often used in conjunction with osteopathy, myotherapy and podiatry as an active approach of treating a variety of injuries.
But by now you must be asking, if clinical pilates does all that, why do I have to do muscle release during my pilates session?
That’s a great question and one that deserves an even better answer. It’s definitely not because it’s the latest trend within the health and fitness professions, nor is it because we like to see you in some discomfort (although some of our therapist might disagree with this, just joking). It’s because muscle release or self myofascial release (SMFR) has been shown to improve flexibility, decrease muscle tightness, decrease pain and improve muscular efficiency.
As you are well aware, SMFR can be done with a variety of tools including: foam rollers, spiky balls, massage sticks, and just about any other tool you have seen advertised on TV or at your local sporting goods shop. No matter which tool is utilised SMFR focuses on the soft tissues (muscles, fascia and tendons), neural (nerves and brain/spinal cord) and articular (joints and ligaments) systems. Our bodies are an integrated functional unit with all components working in a harmonious synchronicity. If for whatever reason one component of your system is not functioning optimally, then other areas (either locally or afar) will compensate, leading to tissue misuse, overuse, abuse, disuse and inefficient movement patterns. As muscular efficiency is compromised, it can induce stress, strain, fatigue and ultimately injury. Certainly not the goal you are after with your clinical pilates session nor in alliance with its principles and philosophies. Utilising SMFR techniques will help you improve muscular balance and performance ensuring that you get a superior outcome from your clinical pilates session.
But how does it work, I hear you asking?
SMFR is based on the principal of “autogenic inhibition”. (Wow that’s a mouthful, how about we break it down for you in English!)
Muscles contain two different types of proprioceptors (nerve receptors), called muscle spindles and Golgi tendon organs (GTO). Muscle spindles monitor the length and rate of lengthening of a muscle. When a muscle is stretched very rapidly or to its end range, the muscle spindle sends a message to the spinal cord which initiates a reflex contraction which protects the muscle from overstretching and straining. The GTO receptors on the other hand, monitors the tension within the muscle produced by contraction or stretching. If the tension is determined to be above a safe level the GTO sends a message to the spinal cord which will inhibit muscle contraction and therefore muscle tension.
Therefore when you sustain sufficient pressure against your SMFR tool (ie. foam roller), the GTO will switch off the muscle spindle activity and thus allow the muscle to stretch and relax. This reduction in tension will decrease pain, restore normal muscle length-tension relationships, and improve function.
So in a nutshell the wonderful benefits of SMFR, include:
- Correction of muscle imbalances
- Muscle relaxation
- Improved flexibility
- Improved neuromuscular efficiency
- Reduction of pain
- Decreased muscular tension and tightness
- Provide optimal length-tension relationships
So next time your therapist (clinical pilates instructor) asks you to perform that teeth clenching quadriceps foam rolling or eye twitch upper traps spiky ball SMFR you can now appreciate how this will help you get the most out of your pilates session and thus helping you ‘move through life’ optimally!