Stretching is an activity that most people dread doing and is regularly the first thing dropped from a workout routine. People find it uncomfortable, awkward and sometimes painful. Very commonly I am asked does stretching work? Much of the current research that is out there is contradicting with certain studies stating stretches should be held for a minimum of 30 seconds while others recommend up to 4 minutes! However, how you stretch does play a big part in the benefits that you see.
This is where fascial stretching is different from regular stretching. Author and movement therapist Thomas W. Myers describes the word myofascia as “the bundled together, inseparable nature of muscle tissue (myo) and its accompanying web of connective tissue (fascia)”. Fascia is a network of connective tissue that travels throughout the body. When you do a regular stretch you are typically focusing on an individual muscle group, such as the hamstrings. However, this stretch fails to address the interlinking fascial network of muscles throughout the body and therefore the short-term & long-term benefits are limited. For example, in fascial stretching the hamstrings are part of the “Superfical Back Line”, a network of fascia travelling all the way from the scalp down to the plantar fascia in your foot picking up the erector spinaes, hamstrings, and gastrocnemius on its way down. This means that if the tightness in your hamstrings are caused by restriction somewhere else along that network, you can stretch your hamstrings all day long and with very little change! In many cases, people become frustrated with stretching and will give it up due to a lack of results.
Fascial stretch therapy(TM) takes a global view of the body and movement. It is a table-based, therapist-led series of passive stretches that targets muscles within their fascial line. Unlike regular stretching fascial stretching is never static, the stretch continuously moves with the range of motion of the joint and muscles. It is also timed with your breathing to target the parasympathetic nervous system which allows for greater relaxation of the muscles. Fascial stretching is ideal for people who have chronic tightness that never seems to go away or who have pain that is associated with muscle imbalances. Many clients also see benefits with this therapy as an adjunct treatment for injuries such as plantar fasciitis, achilles tendinitis, hip impingement, piriformis syndrome, sciatica, low back pain, shoulder impingement, tennis elbow, and general neck pain. If you always feel chronically tight or wonder if your pain can be addressed by fascial stretching, book in today for an assessment with a Registered Physiotherapist.
Post by Erin Galway – registered physiotherapist in Burlington