Do Self-Myofascial Release Devices Release Myofascia? Rolling Mechanisms: A Narrative Review

Sports Med. 2019 Aug;49(8):1173-1181. doi: 10.1007/s40279-019-01149-y.


The term "self-myofascial release" is ubiquitous in the rehabilitation and training literature and purports that the use of foam rollers and other similar devices release myofascial constrictions accumulated from scar tissue, ischaemia-induced muscle spasms and other pathologies. Myofascial tone can be modulated with rollers by changes in thixotropic properties, blood flow, and fascial hydration affecting tissue stiffness. While rollers are commonly used as a treatment for myofascial trigger points, the identification of trigger points is reported to not be highly reliable. Rolling mechanisms underlying their effect on pain suppression are not well elucidated. Other rolling-induced mechanisms to increase range of motion or reduce pain include the activation of cutaneous and fascial mechanoreceptors and interstitial type III and IV afferents that modulate sympathetic/parasympathetic activation as well as the activation of global pain modulatory systems and reflex-induced reductions in muscle and myofascial tone. This review submits that there is insufficient evidence to support that the primary mechanisms underlying rolling and other similar devices are the release of myofascial restrictions and thus the term "self-myofascial release" devices is misleading.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Massage / instrumentation*
  • Muscle, Skeletal*
  • Pain
  • Pain Management*
  • Range of Motion, Articular*