Feeling like the Tin Man with joints in desperate need of some oil to get moving? Or maybe you’re a bit like the Cowardly Lion and are scared to move that hip or knee due to pain or chronic injury? Unfortunately there is no magic wizard at the end of this yellow brick road, just a wonderful thing called Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST™).
WHAT IS FASCIAL STRETCH THERAPY?
FST™ is a unique system of assisted stretching that targets fascia and joints. Certified therapists use movement through a series of stretches to unlock tension in the deepest layers of tissues. The aim is to unravel restrictions in the fascia, relax the hold the nervous system has on the tissue, and open up the joint space by stretching the fascia throughout the body.
It was created in 1966 by Ann Frederick as a way to assess and treat the mobility concerns of her pro athlete clients. She developed her system by looking at the body as a whole, specifically targeting the continuous lines of fascia instead of individual muscles. She was able to achieve bigger results by using a combination of traction, oscillation, and circumduction. Later, she partnered with her husband and physical therapist, Chris Frederick. The techniques were further developed and used to help a wide range of people wanting to reduce their pain and increase their range of motion. Today, practitioners such as physiotherapists and massage therapists are taught FST™ through the Stretch to Win institute.
WHAT IS FASCIA?
Fascia is the weblike 3D matrix of connective tissue that connects and penetrates every soft tissue of the body.
- It connects tendons/ligaments to bone.
- It encases every muscle.
- It suspends organs within the body.
- It’s highly innervated with specialized sensory nerves and receptors that relay information to the central nervous system about the quantity and quality of movement.
“Think of the body as having been just one muscle that has subsequently subdivided into more than 600 fascial bags” – Thomas Myers
Happy and healthy fascia is hydrated and continuous. In this case, movement is typically easy, pain-free, and efficient within the joint and beyond.
Now imagine that continuous line of fascia being super taut or being disrupted in some way. This occurs when the collagen fibers of fascia build up and become stiff or locked. Movement would then become difficult, less efficient, and even painful.
Due to the continuous ‘knitted’ formation of fascia, one restriction can lead to another further down the chain. During this ripple effect, fibers are unable to communicate, cooperate and glide optimally with the other components of the system.
Let’s use an ankle injury for example. An ankle injury can become dysfunction in the movement at your hip, which can then lead to stiffness and pain in your lower back. With that said, addressing the entire fascial network or treating the complete fascial line from head to toe can have a positive cascading effect on tension in the body and the initial point of injury.
WHEN DO FASCIA ADHESIONS OCCUR?
Fascia adhesions tend to occur at these congested areas after injury, surgery, inflammation, repetitive movement, or even after lack of movement (ex. sedentary lifestyle, injury recovery, poor posture).
FST™ is performed on a traditional massage table. To gain better control and leverage, therapists use stabilization straps to hold limbs in place. This allows the patient to relax while the therapist performs the stretches.
WHAT TO EXPECT?
Patients should arrive at their appointment in stretchy comfortable clothing such as tights, shorts, sweatpants, t-shirt or tank top.
The initial assessment involves gathering information about your injury history including posture, pain, quality of movement, and quality of sleep. You will be asked to participate in some muscle contractions but your main job is to RELAX and BREATHE!
Maybe you’re hesitant to move that stiff, old injured shoulder? Well there’s no need to worry. This is a pain free treatment. The FST™ system works with ‘finesse not force’. During treatment, the therapist is “romancing” the nervous system to relax. Relaxed tissues and a relaxed patient allows the therapist to open range deep within the joint.
You may feel improvements in mobility after one 60 or 90 min session. However, at least 3 sessions are recommended to get the best, lasting results from your FST™ treatment. Regular maintenance treatments can be scheduled as needed thereafter.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FST™?
- Decreased pain
- Increased mobility
- Reduced vulnerability to injury
- Improved posture, circulation, and joint health
- Improved physiology such as sleep, digestion, and energy
- Corrected structural imbalances (ex. leg length discrepancies).
- Down regulated nervous system for post activity restoration, regeneration, and lymph flush
- Up regulated nervous system for pre activity dynamic warm-up, corrective work and/or mental – emotional athletic preparation
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM FST™?
- Those with chronic back pain. Oftentimes, chronic back pain is associated with muscle tightness and joint stiffness; general weakness, fear of movement, and certain activities; and lack of mobility. FST™ can help to eliminate your pain and restore function so you can return to your normal life.
- Those who regularly train. When you’re training regularly, you need your body to recover quickly. FST™ improves blood flow to tired muscles, which helps you to recover faster from your tough training sessions with less soreness.
- Those who sit too much. Decreased blood flow to your legs can lead to a myriad of health issues. Not to mention stiffness and tightness in the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and neck. FST™ improves circulation and wakes up all those sitting muscles.
- Those with degenerative joint disease or arthritis. Both chronic issues are related to and cause decreased joint space and lack of movement at the joint. FST™ can help slow the process of degeneration by keeping the affected joints lubricated and moving in a safe, pain free way.
- Those with poor posture. Over time our tissues adaptively shorten and weaken as we maintain poor posture throughout the day. FST™ helps restore alignment and proprioception in joints while unraveling the tension poor posture creates.
- Those who are active. FST™ can help you to run faster, lift heavier, boost endurance, improve coordination, and increase flexibility.
- Those rehabbing an injury. Feel like your recovery has plateaued? Through FST™, your therapist can help increase your range of motion by eliminating adhesions and allowing your body to get rid of unnecessary compensations.
- Those who are stressed. Stuck in fight or flight mode – racing mind, trouble sleeping, constipated? FST™, helps pull you into a more parasympathetic state ( rest and digest), which allows our body and mind to relax and let go of excess tension, promoting a deeper, restful sleep.
- Those who need help stretching. How far, how long, how often? FST™ assessment and treatment can give you a great idea of areas to focus on. What corners of your joint are restricted, what your pattern of movement is. There is no better way to learn than FEELING IT!
- Those who do not like Massage. FST™ is a great way to achieve the relaxation and decreased tension of a massage, without the sometimes uncomfortable action of undressing, etc.
Ultimately, FST™ is for anyone who has a body and wants to move better! This treatment is great for individuals of all ages and activity levels!
To book a FST session with Lindsay MacDonald or Robyn Carignan, click below!
- Frederick, A., Frederick, C. (2006) Stretch to Win. Champaign: Human Kinetics.
- Frederick, A., Frederick, C. (2014) Fascial Stretch Therapy. 1st ed. Pencaitland, Scotland, UK: Handspring Publishing Ltd
- Myers, W. Thomas (2014) Anatomy Trains. 3rd ed. UK: Handspring Publishing Ltd.