Heart Disease Prevention using Self Myofascial Release

The best medicine prescribed is preventative medicine.  This blog is to explain briefly how Self Myofascial Release or SMR (even just 1 bout) can be great preventative measures for heart disease by decreasing arterial stiffness.  The human body has a myofascial system that envelops all muscles, organs, glands, and cells.  This system is also known as the extracellular matrix which is connective tissue made up of collagen and elastin.  The 3-D fascial web, or fascial netting, literally surrounds the circulatory system, nervous system, musculoskeletal system, and digestive tract.

When we think about SMR, or P-Knotting, we think about releasing muscle tension, increasing mobility, and otherwise reducing the feeling of “being tight”.  But today I want you to think a little deeper.  The biomechanical tension you feel is also the entire connective tissue system (described above) having a decrease in elasticity.  The tighter you are, the more arterial stiffness there will be in your body.  Thus, you are at a higher risk for an elevated systolic blood pressure, and/or hypertrophy of the left ventricular wall of your heart.  In other words, heart disease is a predictable risk for those who have “flexibility” issues.

My mind had previously been focusing on the more obvious reasons for heart conditions, and creating plans to overcome or manage these conditions.  It dawned on me however, that I have been looking at the symptoms rather than the cause.  Recently, I have come to the conclusion that there are more cases of heart disease that can/could be prevented by looking deeper than just lifestyle, genetics, and typical risk factors alone….

In just about all cases of cardiac troubled clients/patients I have worked with, there was a strong overlapping similarity between them.  Young, old, male, female, athlete, and non-athletes people who have the symptoms of heart conditions were also very tight throughout their body, excluding people with known congenital heart issues.  Range of motion tests were never up to standard scores and the quality of movement patterns were subpar as well.  Putting these people through standard cardiac rehab protocols could actually create biomechanical issues; however the heart must be rehabbed to prevent further damage.  The response to the rehab increases the function of the cardiopulmonary system, but I started to think that this just might be a “band aid” solution to the symptoms of heart disease.  Of course there is a point where this type of “band aid” is an absolute must for the individual to recover, however I think that true preventative medicine is more than diet, exercise, and heart health consciousness of today’s traditional education.

Obviously I am a huge promoter of SMR, and for many reasons.  In the case of the cardiovascular system, I have realized that the correlations to heart conditions with individuals who are not “flexible” needed to be addressed.  I began to search my theory to see if there had been any scientific studies done.  To my surprise, there have been quite a few.  One in particular really confirmed the idea that a tight fascial netting will decrease the elasticity of the visceral system, thus creating arterial stiffness.

In the January of 2014, Volume 28, Number 1 publication of the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research I stumbled upon an original research titled “Acute Effects of Self-Myofascial Release Using a Foam Roller on Arterial Function”.  The research was conducted by Takanobu Okamoto from the Department of Exercise Physiology, Nippon Sports Science University, Tokyo Japan; Mitsuhiko Masuhara from the Department of Exercise Physiology and Biochemistry, Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences, Osaka, Japan; and Komei Ikuta from the Department of Health and Child Sciences, Osaka Aoyama University, Osaka, Japan.

In this study, the collaborated scientists measured brachial-ankle pulse wave velocity, blood pressure, heart rate, and plasma nitric oxide concentrations the test group and control group both before and 30 minutes after using a foam roller to engage SMR of the adductor, hamstrings, quadriceps, iliotibial band, and trapezius. In short, the results of the statistical analysis were consistent, and the conclusion was that SMR could be used in exercise programs to promote heart health.  Even one bout of SMR consistently showed a temporary decrease in arterial stiffness.

Today, yoga has been a growing practice for people who are seeking better overall health and for heart disease prevention.  Yoga reduces stress….why is this?  Stress is high elevations of various tensions. Because yoga helps to restore the proper length/tension relationships of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, the fascial netting is also restored to a less restricted state. This increase in extensibility of collagen and elastin reduces the myofascial restrictions on the vascular endothelial cells, allowing for better function.  The same is true when engaging in SMR.  Self Myofascial Release is used to treat myofascial restrictions by restoring the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and other soft-tissues to less restricted state.  SMR however, has acute benefits for heart disease prevention, whereas yoga takes time and consistency to truly get the benefits of a myofascial release.

Combining yoga with P-Knotting will decrease your arterial stiffness, making it a preventive medication to heart disease.  Thanks for reading folks, Be Well and Drink Water.

Ethan Plante
Ethan Plante

Ethan's primary role is educating P-Knotters. His favorite P-Knot Move is the Grab and Pull in the hamstrings from a deficit using a UniSphere.

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