Fascial Stretch Therapy
FST is a subtle technique with a big impact. It’s amazing. I walk out of each session feeling lighter in my body; like the wear-and-tear of every day life has been magically lifted away! I ask a lot of my body. This focussed "maintenance time" is a thank you gift to it for keeping up with my constant demands.Deanna R

What Is Fascia?

Chronic injuries or stiffness that won’t go away? The answer may be right under your fingertips. About 2mm under your fingertips, to be precise. Under your skin, encasing your body and webbing its way through your insides like spider webs, is fascia. Fascia is made up primarily of densely packed collagen fibers that create a full body system of sheets, chords and bags that wrap, divide and permeate every one of your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs. Every bit of you is encased in it. You're protected by fascia, connected by fascia and kept in taut human shape by fascia.

Grab hold of the collar of your shirt and give it a little tug. Your whole shirt responds, right? Your collar pulls into the back of your neck. The tail of your shirt inches up the small of your back. Your sleeves move up your forearms. Then it falls back into place. That's a bit like fascia. It fits like a giant, body-hugging T-shirt over your whole body, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and crisscrossing back and forth and through and back again. You can't move just one piece of it, and you can't make a move without bringing it along.

Now, pull the collar of your shirt again, only this time, hold onto it for eight hours. That's about the time you spend leaning forward over a desk or computer or steering wheel, right? Now, pull it 2,500 times. That's about how many steps you'd take on a half-hour run. Your shirt probably isn't looking too good at this point.

Fortunately, your fascia is tougher than your shirt is, and it has infinitely more self-healing properties. In its healthy state it's smooth and supple and slides easily, allowing you to move and stretch to your full length in any direction, always returning back to its normal state. Unfortunately, it's very unlikely that your fascia maintains its optimal flexibility, shape or texture. Lack of activity will cement the once-supple fibers into place. Chronic stress causes the fibers to thicken in an attempt to protect the underlying muscle. Poor posture and lack of flexibility and repetitive movements pull the fascia into ingrained patterns. Adhesions form within the stuck and damaged fibers like snags in a sweater, and once they've formed they're hard to get rid of.

How To Care For Fascia

Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST):
While traditional massage techniques work to manipulate and stretch one muscle or group at a time, FST looks to stretch multiple fascia at a time by combining stretching with traction. FST helps to loosen up the fascia and joints, creating space where the lubricating synovial fluid can flow and ease movement. It works on the joint capsule and the fascia become more flexible, pliable and hydrated.

FST is a pain-free and often enjoyable therapy and while therapeutic results are highly individualized and depend on each case, it has been known to help people with chronic conditions that didn't respond to other treatments. What you should experience are:

  • improvements in mobility and flexibility
  • improved posture
  • increased strength
  • improved blood flow

FST has proven useful in treating a number of conditions, including:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • chronic headaches
  • chronic pain
  • disc herniation
  • facet joint dysfunctions (faulty articulation of two discs of the vertebra)
  • fibromyalgia
  • mobility issues
  • mobility issues
  • recent injury to soft tissues
  • osteoarthritis
  • pinched nerves

At Exhale, we offer 30min, 60min, and 75min appointments with integrated movement therapy.

Move It Or Lose It:
If you are already doing Pilates you are on the right track to keeping your body free from sticky adhesions, Sticky adhesions form between fascial surfaces that aren't regularly moved, and over time these adhesions get strong enough to inhibit range of motion. Take a few minutes first thing in the morning to roll around in bed and really stretch out, head to toe, just like a cat after a nap.

Stay Lubricated:
Just like every other tissue in your body, your fascia is made of water. It works better, moves better and feels better when it's wet. So, drink!

Stretch Your Muscles:
When your muscles are chronically tight the surrounding fascia tightens along with them. Over time the fascia becomes rigid, compressing the muscles and the nerves.

Stretch Your Fascia:
Once your fascia has tightened up, it doesn't want to let go. Because the fascia can withstand up to 2,000 pounds of pressure per square inch, you're not going to force your way through, so stretch gently. Fascia also works in slower cycles than muscles do, both contracting and stretching more slowly. To stretch the fascia, hold gentle stretches for three to five minutes, relaxing into a hold.

If you spend all day tense and tight at a desk, ice baths may not be the best thing for you. Fifteen to 20 minutes in a warm Epsom salt bath can coax tight fascia to loosen up, releasing your muscles from their stranglehold. Make sure to follow it up with 10 minutes of light activity to keep blood from pooling in your muscles.

Use A Foam Roller:
Like stretching, using a foam roller on your fascia is different than on your muscles. Be gentle and slow in your movements, and when you find an area of tension hold sustained pressure for three to five minutes. You may practice self-massage with the same rules.

Respect Your Body:
If you're attempting to run through an injury, or returning from one with a limp, beware: Your fascia will respond to your new mechanics and, eventually, even after your injury is gone, you may maintain that same movement pattern. That's a recipe for an injury cycle. It's better to take some extra time than to set yourself up for long-term trouble.