Receiving Sports Stretch Massage, Fascial Stretch FST & Self Stretching can be extremely relaxing and therapeutically beneficial!
It is the position of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) that those who participate in exercise programs, as well as athletes in training, can benefit from massage therapy.
Over time, an accumulation of physical stress can begin to take a toll on our muscles and joints. Overuse of muscles can cause them to become chronically tight and sore; and compression and torque forces on the joints can lead to joint dysfunction and pain. In turn, joint pain can lead to further tightening of the muscles via protective muscle splinting and the pain-spasm-pain cycle. Tight muscles can then further limit joint motion, leading to fascial adhesion’s. This cycle, once begun, can be difficult to stop.
Sports Stretch is very simple. The essence of stretching is that it lengthens soft tissues. Taut soft tissues limit motion, whether they are tight muscles or any soft tissue that has accumulated fascial adhesion’s. Stretching can help to reverse this process. Even better, stretching on a regular basis can prevent soft tissues from becoming taut in the first place.
Recovery is a hugely important part of your workout routine. After all, that’s when your muscles actually rebuild what’s been broken down during exercise.
Sports stretch massage actually draws from several techniques that may already be familiar to you, including Swedish massage, which improves blood circulation and oxygenation, and deep tissue massage, which targets and breaks up muscle knots and areas of tightness.
Sports stretch massage can be used before, during, and after strenuous athletic events, like a big race. But even if not training for an endurance event, anyone who is regularly physically active may experience the benefits of sports massage. Proponents of the technique say it can reduce muscle tension and pain, lower blood pressure, increase blood circulation and lymph flow, improve flexibility and range of motion, and improve muscle recovery time.
Fascial Stretch Therapy Explained
Fascial stretching can increase flexibility and decrease the chance of injury. … But the kind of fascia we’re talking about is a group of tough fibrous tissues or membranes that surround, connect, and lend support to our muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels
Some Benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy: Reduce and help prevent the risk of injury. Improved posture and muscle function, which allows your body to move more freely. Improve/Increase circulation, flexibility and range of motion. Reduce or eliminate pain and soreness
First off, this is not myofascial release. Fascial Stretch Therapy is an assisted stretching program that his been thoroughly researched and designed by some of the top professionals in the industry. It is performed on a treatment table, using stabilization, giving the therapist better control and leverage when performing the stretches. The client feels more comfortable and is able to relax easier by not feeling like they are going to roll off the table.
There is no real way to fully describe the type of stretching you will receive without actually experiencing it. Many of my clients describe it as “yoga on crack”. Your body will be moved and stretched in ways that you just can not do on your own, with areas targeted for release that you likely have never felt before, or even realized how tight you were there. It works deep into the joint capsules of your body (almost 50% of our flexibility is locked up in our joints)…areas a therapist can’t reach with their hands, or with other methods of manual therapy.
Traction is a major component of the treatment. The therapist will apply gentle traction to the joint being targeted, opening up the joint and creating space for increased range of motion before taking the limb through the movement pattern, paying attention to the fascia restrictions that may need to be addressed. It is pretty pain free for the client, although some areas can be intense or uncomfortable if it is really restricted. The therapist will work slow through these areas and stay within your comfort zone.
Post-treatment clients tend to notice changes immediately once they get off of the table. A feeling of “lightness” and being more open is a typical description. Better posture without trying. Having them move around or do some stretches they notice more free mobility. It even makes you taller because it decompresses and creates space between all of your joints.
Who Gets Fascial Stretch Therapy?
FST is still pretty unknown to most of the general public, although it is growing rapidly throughout the country, and the world. Professional teams and athletes have been using it for years as part of their treatment programs. The Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers all have FST therapists as part of their staff. The 2015 USA Women’s World Champion Soccer Team had an FST therapist as well. All over the country teams and pro athletes from all sports are starting to hire FST therapists (if they haven’t already) because of how beneficial the treatment is.
It is not just a treatment for athletes though, it benefits people of all ages and activity levels. We lose 10% of our flexibility for every 10 years that we age unless we actively work at maintaining it. My desk workers LOVE this treatment because of how immobile their bodies have become from sitting hunched over all day. There are new discoveries everyday in the continued research of fascia, and how treatment that targets this soft tissue component of our body positively affects us. There are just too many benefits to list!
Some Benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy:
- Reduce and help prevent the risk of injury
- Improved posture and muscle function, which allows your body to move more freely
- Improve/Increase circulation, flexibility and range of motion
- Reduce or eliminate pain and soreness
- Promote development of body awareness, and increase balance and symmetry in the body
- Enhance physical fitness and performance, and helps to reach fitness goals
- Improved Recovery and Sleep
Adding Neural Inhibition to a Stretch
A stretch can be enhanced by adding a neural inhibition component, whether performed statically or dynamically. Neural inhibition involves the nervous system inhibiting; in other words, relaxing a muscle so that it can be stretched more effectively. Two nervous system reflexes can be utilized for this: reciprocal inhibition reflex and the Golgi tendon organ reflex.
Reciprocol inhibition is a reflex that inhibits/relaxes the antagonist muscles when an agonist (mover) muscle is contracted. The key to using this reflex is to create a scenario in which our target muscle (the muscle to be stretched) is the antagonist of a joint motion. It’s quite simple to do. We contract our musculature to actively move our body into the position of stretch of the target muscle. For example, if our target muscles are the hip fl exors, we simply move the thigh into extension at the hip joint.
In effect, any dynamic stretch adds the component of reciprocal inhibition if we actively move the body part into the position of the stretch instead of passively moving it there. For example, when stretching the posterior shoulder region as seen in Figure 2, instead of using the left hand to bring the right upper extremity into the position of stretch, we contract the anterior shoulder musculature of the right upper extremity to actively move it into the position of stretch. In addition to the mechanical component of stretching the posterior soft tissues, the posterior muscles will be reciprocally inhibited so they can then be stretched more effectively.
Once the position of stretch is reached, we then further stretch the target musculature; this is done passively by using the left hand to stretch the right upper extremity. Stretches that utilize reciprocal inhibition are called agonist contract (AC) stretches. Active isolated stretching, is a form of AC stretching. AC stretches are usually performed dynamically; therefore the position of stretch is only held for a couple of seconds and eight to 10 repetitions are performed.
The Golgi tendon organ reflex inhibits a muscle from contracting if that muscle is first contracted with moderate or greater force. To utilize this reflex when stretching, we need to first actively contract our target musculature. This is usually done isometrically against the resistance of our own body.
Stretches that utilize the Golgi tendon organ reflex are called contract relax (CR) stretches. They are also known as post-isometric relaxation (PIR) and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretches (Note: AC stretching is also sometimes known as PNF stretching). The isometric contraction of a CR stretch is held between five and 10 seconds, and three to four repetitions are usually performed.
Any stretch can have a neural inhibition component of CR or AC stretching added to it. Logistically though, it is sometimes easier to convert a stretch into one or the other depending upon the mechanics of the situation. Because both CR and AC stretching require active contraction of musculature, they have the added benefit of strengthening musculature and improving neural pathways from the central nervous system.
Conventional wisdom now states that classic static stretching should be done only after the tissues of the body are first warmed up by physical movement. For the massage therapist, this means that we should statically stretch after giving massage, or after engaging in some other physical activity, such as exercise. Alternately, we could statically stretch after warming the body via the use of heat, perhaps a shower, bath or even a heating pad.
Dynamic stretching better increases local blood circulation and moves synovial fluid, aiding in better nutrition to the joint surfaces. And, of course,the soft tissues on the other side of the joint are lengthened and therefore stretched.
Gentle stretching and nothing is accomplished; too strong and the muscle will respond with a muscle spindle stretch reflex that causes a spasm. Muscle spindle stretch reflexes are triggered by a stretch that is either too strong or too fast. Therefore, the force of a stretch needs to be just right, and it needs to be done slowly.
12 Stretches for Better Self-Care
Illustrations © Mosby/The Muscle and Bone Palpation Manual with Trigger Points, Referral Patterns and Stretching
Figure 1 demonstrates a stretch of the pectoral and anterior deltoid regions. Place the forearm against a door frame and lean into the doorway. Note: The arm is shown abducted to ninety degrees (i.e., horizontal); it could be abducted more or less to better stretch lower or upper fibers of the region respectively.
Figure 2 demonstrates a stretch of the posterior shoulder and shoulder girdle region. The arm is moved or brought forward and across the chest. Changing the height of the arm can alter which fibers are optimally stretched.
Figure 3 demonstrates a stretch of the muscles of the glenohumeral joint. A towel is used to facilitate this stretch. Pulling upward with the left hand stretches the right shoulder region; pulling downward with the right hand stretches the left shoulder region.
Figure 4 demonstrates stretches of the muscles of the wrist and fingers. A, flexors; B, extensors. Note: Extreme caution should be used when performing wrist joint stretches because of the increased compression force that is placed into the carpal tunnel. If these stretches cause any pain or discomfort in the wrist, they should be discontinued. The muscles of the forearm and hand that are involved in these stretches are easily accessible and can be self-massaged instead.
Figure 5 demonstrates a stretch of the flexors and adductors of the thumb.
Figure 6 demonstrates two stretches for the extensor muscles of the posterior neck. Both stretches involve flexing and laterally flexing the neck and head. In A, ipsilateral rotation is added; in B, contralateral rotation is added.
Figure 7 demonstrates a stretch for the extensor muscles of the posterior trunk. Both knees are drawn into the chest. To increase the stretch for the extensor muscles on one side, deviating the thighs toward the opposite side can be added to the stretch.
Figure 8 demonstrates a stretch for the lateral trunk.
Figure 9 demonstrates a stretch for the gluteal region. The thigh is drawn up and across the body. Varying the exact angle of the thigh can optimally stretch different fibers of the gluteal region.
Figure 10 demonstrates a stretch for the hip flexor group. Note: When performing this stretch, it is important to keep the trunk vertical.
Figure 11 demonstrates a stretch for the hamstring group. With the knee joint fully extended, rock forward with the pelvis (the spine does not need to bend).
Figure 12 demonstrates a stretch for the plantarfl exors of the posterior leg. A, for the gastrocnemius, the knee joint must be extended. B, for the soleus, the knee joint should be flexed. For both muscles, the heel must remain flat on the floor.
When stretching a muscle, bring the muscle to the point of tension where it just starts to resist the stretch. Then the muscle should be slowly stretched, just slightly longer than the point where tissue tension was reached.
The following is a helpful list of a few different types of stretching techniques available through a professional massage therapist:
1. Mattes method: Also known as active isolated stretching, Mattes Method was discovered by Aaron Mattes after working extensively with multiple doctors, athletes and health care professionals at the University of Illinois. The technique is specifically designed for athletes. With the technique, patients will hold stretches for no longer than two seconds each. The stretches used in the method are often categorized with muscle lengthening techniques, which improve range of motion without causing trauma or tension. Essentially, the Mattes Method improves the elasticity of the muscles and provides natural energy to the patient.
2. Active stretching: One of the more common stretching techniques offered by local massage therapists is active stretching, which involves positioning your body a certain way to facilitate lengthening of a certain muscle or group of muscles. Active stretching was invented at Columbia University in 1998 by Thomas Sheehan, and has since become a popular stretching method for athletes, as well as everyday people. The stretches usually involve staying in an elongated position for 30 to 60 seconds in order to give your muscles enough time to adapt to the stretch. As a result, the patient builds strength and develops greater control over his or her body.
3. Yoga: Yoga is a type of active stretching that integrates concepts such as breathing, meditation and self-awareness into the routine. Each of these techniques contributes to better injury prevention. Specifically, yoga has proven to be one of the more effective techniques for treating carpal tunnel syndrome.
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
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