Many people walk around with tight, brittle and restricted muscle tissue. This is caused due to aging, poor lifestyle patterns, high activity, dehydration and/or poor movement qualities. Muscle “fascia” envelops the entire body. Think of a layer of plastic that surrounds the muscle tissue; that “plastic” is fascia. When this fascia is stiff and restricted, mobility is decreased, and this can cause issues in other parts of the body. Adhesions and trigger points can form due to this restricted fascia thus causing denseness in the muscle. This denseness then limits muscle length and joint mobility. Simply put, when you have poor tissue quality, you lose your ability to move in a free range of motion. Once you start losing your mobility, pain and injury begin to surface and eventually can turn into chronic issues.
Can something be done to improve tissue quality? Absolutely. Tissue work is a common practice amongst high-level athletes and fitness coaches throughout the industry. A qualified massage therapist is the best option. There is nothing better for your muscle tissue than a good set of hands. But not everyone wants to spend $50 everyday for a massage. There are self-massage techniques that can be implemented weekly to tremendously improve your tissue quality.
Foam Roll: using this dense Styrofoam cylinder can be just has beneficial as a deep tissue massage. This tool can help relieve tight fascia, decrease adhesions or knots in the muscles and improve mobility. For our clients, this is the first thing we do to start the training session. We first want to work muscle density before we go and stretch or lengthen the muscle. Stretching a muscle before foam rolling is like pulling on an elastic band with a knot in it. The knot will not go anywhere; it will just draw tighter. Another reason to start your workout with a few minutes of foam rolling is that it will increase blood flow throughout the body, which will prepare you for the workout ahead.
Make sure you gradually progress using the foam roll. If you have never used this technique, you will first experience discomfort and slight pain. Start with 4-6 “rolls” over the specific muscles you are working, and then move to another area. Once you build tolerance, you can slowly increase the time on a specific body part.
Other self-massage tools that can be utilized are massage sticks, tennis balls, baseballs, and frozen water bottles. These tools can manipulate specific body parts with a little more concentration than a foam roll. For example, the bottoms of your feet need tissue work. Poor tissue quality of the plantar fascia (layer of muscle on the bottom of your foot) can cause extreme pain and soreness. The foam roll doesn’t really work for the bottoms of your feet. That is where a tennis ball or baseball can be a great tool to relieve the tight tissue in that area. Anyone who wears dress shoes, high heels or is on their feet throughout the week needs to spend time addressing the tissue of the feet.
The main point is that everyone needs to spend some time to improve muscle tissue quality. The older we get, the more we need, as muscles become tight and brittle as we age.