Friday, July 27, 2012

Assisted Myofascial Stretching

As a Kinesiologist I've seen a great need for more joint mobility and muscular flexibility. Quite admittedly for most, they don’t feel like: 1) have time, 2) expertise, or 3) enjoyment to obtain the abundance of benefits from participating in regular muscle and fascia stretching. I hear reports all the time that people are unable to schedule it in, find the right stretch, or are unsure of how tightening and loosening their bodies can affect the way they sit,stand, sleep or play sports. To address this, I have developed 1:1 stretch sessions to help people overcome the barriers above, and get people moving their bodies in ways that will provide long term benefits, increased athletic performance, and enhanced recovery. 

So, next I’d like to tell you a little about Fascia and what is Assisted Myofascial Stretching.

“Myofascia is the fascinating biological fabric and glue that holds us together.” … according to Thomas Myer a brilliant anatomist who in the last decade mapped out a series of myofascial tracts or “Anatomy Trains” in our bodies which collectively enable us to move and stand independently as humans. Myofascia is a term that describes the soft tissue of component of connective tissue (collagen and fibrin) that provides support and protection for most structures within the human body, including muscle. Thistissue can become restricted due to psychogenic disease, overuse, trauma, emotional stress, infectious agents, inactivity, which often results in pain, muscle tension, and corresponding diminished blood flow, and then nervous disruption . Although fascia and its corresponding muscle are the main targets of myofascial release, other surrounding tissue may be also affected including organs and structural connective tissues.
As in most tissue, irritation of myofascia or muscle connective causes local inflammation. Chronic inflammation results in fibrosis, or thickening of the connective tissue, and this thickening causes pain and irritation, resulting in reflexive muscle tension that causes more inflammation. In this way, the cycle creates a positive feedback loop and can result in ischemia and somatic dysfunction even in the absence of the original offending agent. Myofascial techniques aim to break this cycle through a variety of methods acting on it in multiple stages of the cycle.
Myofascial techniques generally fall under the two main categories of passive (client stays completely relaxed) or active (client provides resistance as necessary), with direct and indirect techniques used in each.
The passive method which I regularly employ, involves a gentle stretch, with only a few grams of pressure, which allows the fascia to 'unwind' itself. The dysfunctional tissues are guided along the path of least resistance until free movement is achieved. The gentle traction applied for often 3-5 mins to different chains of restricted fascia results in heat, increased blood flow, and maximize the fascias elastic properties. This allows the body's inherent ability for self correction to return, thus eliminating pain and restoring the optimum performance of the body. Research has shown that it can take up to 9 minutes to stretch connective tissues.

The benefits of myofascial release can also be obtained in many ways besides assisted stretching. Exercise, Yoga, Acupuncture, Massage or good ol' passive stretches will usually suffice if done diligently. It's up to you to find the best way to attain the optimal amount of body work to eliminate body pain. Contact me to get your body a tune up.
Thanks Thomas Myers, Carol Manheim, Massimo De Angelis, and Wikipedia for helping me get my facts straight.


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