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A little TLC good for the body
Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) is a manual modality applied for the purposes of tissue manipulation. My appreciation for the effects of this technique continues to grow as I witness the positive impact of this technique on clients recovering from injury or from an intense period of their training regime.
Fascia is a thin layer of tissue that can be found covering every muscle and every organ in our body. If you have ever observed raw meat, you would have most likely noticed the existence of a very thin layer of white, transparent-like tissue.
That is fascia and it surrounds every muscle and every organ of our body. There was a point in time when the study of anatomy and physiology disposed of this white, thin, transparent-like film of tissue perceived to be of no value to understanding the body. However, today, this tissue can be described as the “internet system” of our bodies.
Referring specifically to the musculoskeletal system, the fascia is part of a biofeedback system in the body, relaying information on tissue tension. Stress and strain felt in the musculoskeletal system can be as a result of overused or underused muscles. The perpetual state of this sort of function and existence is upsetting to the body leading to some measure of inflammation. The body’s eventual response to this can result in reduced range of motion (ROM), reduced flexibility and shortened muscles.
The typical response to treat restrictions in ROM is massage, sometimes even deep tissue massage and people think the more it hurts the more it means that you are getting the desired results. While some practitioners do not shy from inflicting this sort of pain, there are those who do not subscribe to such approaches because of the negative mental, chemical and physical responses that it can trigger.
A certain measure of discomfort is acceptable but pain is avoided. Even deep tissue massage, while it can fall into the category of being a painful sensation, need not be the type of pain that causes a chemical change in the body at just the thought of having to get it done. FST can greatly compliment these other massage techniques, targeting the most superficial layer of muscle tissue via a method that is relaxing despite requiring some active involvement of the client and make the pressure of deep tissue massage, less painful.
Fascia also gives muscle its shape. In essence, without fascia encasing the muscle, it would just hang on the bones of the body with a start and an end attachment point. Hence the fascia is the reason for the curvy nature of a healthy muscle through the belly of it. The fascia can also be part of the reason why some women, after having a baby/babies, are not able to return their tummies to a flat state despite their exercise efforts—the fascia was subject to too much trauma.
To draw a more general comparison, sometimes upon rising in the morning, particularly someone in intensive training, there may be an initial feeling of stiffness in the body. That sensation can sometimes be because of irritated or restricted fascia and not necessarily be a problem centred within the muscle or tendon itself, as with the case of “anterior compartment syndrome.”
Treating the fascia can help with improving blood flow to the area and lubricating joints thereby improving the flow of oxygen and nutrients to that area. The more often it is done, the less likely otherwise healthy tissue will be subject to such pain and discomfort.
FST has been known to provide very positive chemical reactions on the body, naturally stimulating the release of the body’s endorphins. Endorphins are the “feel good” chemicals in our body.
Their release leaves us with feelings of pleasure that helps with relaxation, recovery and/or a sort of positive mental state.
They act as an analgesia, reducing the sensation of pain which is probably why, when applied on gymnasts or mixed martial arts athletes who train to have unusual levels of flexibility, they too feel a difference after experience this technique. Sensations of tightness and discomfort should be addressed routinely. It helps with recovery and avoids incurring injury that can affect long term performance and goals.
Pay attention to detail and recognise that a little TLC to help the body feel good is not cheating but will allow you to demand more from your body.
Asha De Freitas-Moseley MS, ATC, A has been an athletic trainer/therapist with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) for the past 12 years. She specialises in the rehabilitation of injuries experienced in the lives of active and/or athletic populations applying Active Release Technique (ART), Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) and Contemporary Dry Needling to complement her training as a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist. If you would like a consultation or have an injury, she can be reached at Pulse Performance Ltd, located at 17 Henry Pierre St, St James. Tel: 221-2437.
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