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  • John Lesko LMT

Fascial Stretch Therapy: What is it?

Fascial Stretch Therapy is a table based facilitated stretching system that combines proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, traction and movement and has been thoroughly researched and designed by some of the top professionals in the industry. It is performed on a treatment table, often using stabilization straps to hold one limb in place at a time, giving the therapist better control and the ability to isolate one side of the body 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 the feeling as deep stretching and opening in places never felt before. 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.

Movement plays another huge role in the success of the treatment. When we look at the body in layers, we notice that there are layers upon layers of tissue literally everywhere in the body. Everyone of these layers of soft tissue and connective tissue have the potential to adhere to the other tissues around it. This adhesive tissue often is a result in a lack of glide or movement between those layers which allows for the opportunity for fibrotic tissue to build up which creates a bond between the 2 layers. Normal stretching alone will stretch these tissues the same, lengthening muscle A, muscle B as well as all that adhesive tissue between them. With FST, it allows the therapist to systematically target certain tissues, create space between those tissues and promote fluid flow to lubricate between those surfaces.

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. My personal experience from my first day in my Level 1 class – I had one side of my body worked on – my right hip and leg. I got off of the table and performed a standard squat and I felt my right side drop inches lower than the other side that did not receive treatment. I was completely lopsided because only the one side had been worked on, but I was amazed at the changes that can be made in just one treatment session. This feedback from my clients is common, and I expect to hear those comments now. Clients have actually cried on my table after feeling release in areas of their body that they have not felt in over a decade, when they had already tried everything else and thought they just had to live with the pain.

Who Gets Fascial Stretch Therapy? As much as I hate this answer... Everybody. Although FST is still fairly unknown to most of the general public, it is growing rapidly throughout the country. Professional teams and athletes have been using it for years as part of their treatment programs. Numerous NFL and MLB teams have FST therapists as part of their staff. The 2015 USA Women’s World Champion Soccer Team had an FST therapist as well because of how beneficial to movement, performance and recovery the treatment is.

It is not a treatment for just athletes though, it is a treatment for people of all ages and activity levels. It is for anyone that wants to move easier and in less pain so they can do whatever it is they enjoy doing. In the past couple years I have seen quite a shift to a very diverse demographic that I treat including so many chronic pain cases walking through my door that I have been able to help. We also lose 10% of our flexibility for every 10 years that we age unless we actively work at maintaining it. My desk workers and healthcare workers LOVE FST because of how immobile their bodies have become from either repetitive postures or repetitive movements 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!

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