The Best Self-Myofascial Release Tools to Soother Your Muscles

September 15, 2015

Last updated: August 31, 2022

Looking to ease muscle tightness and improve mobility? Self-myofascial release (SMR) can soothe your muscles and help you to relax.

There are factors you need to bear in mind when choosing a foam roller and product density is very important. If the foam is too soft, less than adequate tissue massage is applied but, if the foam is too hard, bruising can occur. The last thing you want to do is worsen any soft-tissue trauma which could lead to decreased performance and inflammation. It is also dangerously easy to spend far more than you need to since there is a wealth of products on the market. Choose a self-myofascial release tool you think will suit you best and one that fits within your budget.

Here, we cover some of the best myofascial release tools on the market to help you soothe aching muscles and unwind after a workout.

What is myofascial release?

Known to relax the muscles, myofascial release is a therapeutic technique often used by physical therapists that may help to relieve muscle pain, tightness, and stiffness. It has also been said to improve oxygen, blood, and lymphatic circulation. Myofascial release involves pressure being applied to the fascia – the connective tissue that surrounds the muscles in your body, to try and relieve pain.

You may self-administer the therapy, known as self-myofascial release (SMR), using various tools, such as a foam roller or a massage ball. This is especially popular after exercise, to help ease delayed-onset-muscle-soreness (DOMS) that can occur after a workout.

You may choose to use a foam roller for example, and place the tight and sore area of your body over the roller. Then you’ll use your body weight to apply pressure to the area, while moving backward and forward.

What to look for in myofascial release tool

To make sure you find the right myofascial release tool for you, here are some factors to consider:

Versatility: You have both muscle tissue and connective tissue throughout your body, so it’s important that you have several different tools to safely and effectively address each area.

Intensity: You’ll want to vary intensity depending on the area of the body you’re working on and your existing tolerance levels for myofascial release therapies. Make sure you have mild, mid-level, and more intense options to choose from so you have the tool available to use when you need it.

Ease of use: You’ll be using these tools by yourself, so it’s important you feel comfortable and confident when using them. If it’s a hassle to use or hold, it’s probably not the best tool for your needs.

Self-myofascial release products to try

1. The Original Foam Roller (from £8)

With different colours to signify different densities (hardness), there is a foam roller for everyone. White tends to be the softest, black the firmest and they come in 18” or 36” lengths. If you’re new to self-myofascial release, the original roller is a good place to start and is not an expensive investment. The pressure of a foam roller is very broad and softer overall making it the perfect entry level option. The downsides: the length of each roller make them difficult to transport, and their longevity is not great either.

2. PVC Roller (from £15)

PVC rollers are the next generation of foam rollers. Once you’ve become accustomed to the foam roller, you’ll need something firmer to continue with the benefits of SMR. These products are just a piece of PVC with something wrapped around it to prevent you from sliding. The higher density will provide a more aggressive SMR experience which is not to be feared! Rather it will get deeper into the trigger points with ultimately better results.

3. Triggerpoint GRID Roller (approx. £30)

With a diameter of only 5 inches, this product is more targeted than your average roller. The three-dimensional surface allows tissue to aerate while you roll which promotes the flow of blood and oxygen which are the nutrients needed to repair muscles. The grid rollers are revolutionary because they have what had been lacking from SMR: accuracy. The bumps and grooves imitate the specific digging pressure of a masseuse. The contours deal with different types of tissue, including muscle, tendon and bone. Since these rollers are hollow and wrapped in EVA foam, they are harder than the traditional model but such a design makes them environmentally friendly and travel-friendly. Alongside Trigger products there is an online resource to provide the user with info, truly explaining the process. Best for quads and hamstrings.

4. The Rumble Roller (approx. £45)

A slightly more tortuous version of the Grid Roller! If you’re an SMR connoisseur, there is no better product on the market. With more raised bumps, no trigger point will be left untouched and if you’re just starting out, do not begin here! In order for SMR to work, you need to relax your muscles and the uncomfortable intrusions of the Rumble Roller will not encourage a beginner to do just that. They’re also very durable with a built in an antimicrobial agent that keeps them hygienic.

5. Balls

Typically used on smaller muscle groups, balls allow you to reach areas that cannot be accessed with a roller. They come in different sizes and densities and work best on feet, calves, shoulders, glutes and lower back. Here is a quick summary of the different ones on offer:

Golf ball: Firm, precise, good for feet, size makes it difficult to apply pressure when moving around

Tennis ball: Perfect for entry-level, pressure is limited by the amount of giving, good for shoulders, glutes and back because it puts enough distance between your body and the ground. You can also tape two tennis balls together and use the joined product to go up the columns of muscles that run right beside the spine. The spine sits in the groove between the two taped balls – it’s perfect!

Softball: Firm, pressure not as precise as tennis ball because its diameter is bigger, more useable on areas like quads, hamstrings and pecs, cheap and versatile

Medicine ball: Different sizes and densities again, specific use areas such including pecs and the front side of shoulders

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