We aren't breaking up muscle fibers, we aren't breaking up scar tissue. We are communicating to the body and telling it to relax.
There are 2 main receptors I want to talk about and give some insight into the how and why soft tissue mobilization works and how you can focus a bit more on it to improve your experience with it.
Mechanoreceptors are these receptors in the skin that respond to mechanical stimuli (touch, pressure, stretch) the 2 main receptors that aid in the body's ability to relax.
1.) Free Nerve Endings: responsible for communicating to the body when something is touching the skin or applying pressure or being stretched.
2.) Ruffini Nerve Endings: responsible for recognizing when said stimuli is applying a prolonged experience of stretching or pressure and then communicates to the body to down regulate and relax itself.
These 2 mechanoreceptors work with one another to help the body relax and relieve tension whenever we're foam rolling, rolling out on a lacrosse ball, getting a massage, stretching. The key here is what's happening with the Ruffini nerve endings. We need a prolonged experience with any of these stimuli to see change and casually or passively rolling and stretching doesn't do the trick. So what can you do?
Be more mindful when rolling or stretching, when you've reached a spot that is a bit uncomfortable stay there and work on that spot till we properly communicate with the body to relax in that position and the best way to do that is, control your breathing! Work on active mobility before a workout and soft tissue work after workout for some down-regulation. Over time with consistent work, you will see improvements in trouble areas. The nervous system is so cool!!