Myofascial Release Therapy
The trend, explained: This technical-sounding technique is actually quite simple. It involves using an inexpensive prop, like a Muscle Therapy foam roller ($20, shopgaiam.com) or a Myo-Therapy ball ($24, amazon.com; pictured here), to work the kinks out of achy muscles. (In a pinch, tennis balls work, too.) Myofascial release is said to manipulate the fasciae, thin membranes that cover each muscle, which may alleviate knots and soreness better than massaging muscles alone does. To try it, place your prop of choice on the floor or against a wall and lean on it so it’s under the tender spot. It should feel slightly uncomfortable. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. To increase the effect, gently roll the prop back and forth on the area.
Expert opinion: “When it’s healthy, the fascia over a muscle is like a pillowcase that slides easily over a pillow,” says John R. Martinez, a doctor of physical therapy in New York City. “But when you have injuries or chronic inflammation, the fascia can bind onto the muscle and restrict its movement, which causes discomfort.” Myofascial release therapy helps “unstick” the fascia, he says.
The bottom line: Myofascial release therapy can be helpful for any sore muscle. It’s especially good for targeting hard-to-massage parts, like the quadriceps and the hamstrings, and trainers often suggest using it after workouts to help speed recovery.