Last week I used a Groupon for a one-hour stretch therapy session at a local women’s fitness center. I will admit that I was a little skeptical at first – I mean, I can stretch on my own, so why would I need someone else to help me stretch? I had the choice of using the Groupon for a massage or for stretch therapy and I went in actually looking for a massage. But then the woman who owned the place told me more about fascial stretch therapy and I decided to give it a try.
I knew I was a little tight – I’m in the peak of my marathon training, so being tight is normal for me. But apparently the therapist thought I was equivalent to working on a piece of wood. And I will say that one hour on the table being stretched by someone else was awesome. It was almost as relaxing and felt just as good as a massage. And when I got up, I felt looser, taller, and more relaxed.
So what exactly is fascial stretch therapy? As I’m told…Fascia is the material surrounding all muscles in your body. Like other tissues, fascia can become tight and less mobile. The result is decreased range of motion (ROM), discomfort with stretching, and decreased ability to recover from activity. The stretch therapy helps release the tension in the fascia, resulting in an increased range of motion, decreased pain, and improved athletic performance. By extending the stretch to the joint capsule, you increase the benefits of traditional stretching, and the assisted nature of the treatment allows for greater gains than traditional stretching.
Fascial Stretch Therapy has some unique characteristics that distinguish it from other types of assisted stretching. It is guided by ten principles:
1. Synchronize your breathing with your movement.
2. Tune your nervous system to current conditions.
3. Follow a logical anatomical order.
4. Make gains in your range of motion without pain.
5. Stretch the fascia not just the muscle.
6. Use multiple planes of movement.
7. Target the entire joint.
8. Use traction for maximal lengthening.
9. Facilitate body reflexes for optimal results.
10. Adjust your stretching to your present goals.
According to my stretch therapist, she was able to help one woman decrease her running time by 45 seconds per mile through regular stretch therapy sessions. For someone who is trying to qualify for Boston and not feeling very confident about it, she certainly had my attention. And I definitely noticed a difference after that first session, so she didn’t have to work too hard to convince me to buy a package for more appointments. Since I am so stiff, I am going to go twice per week for the next two weeks and then once per week thereafter until my marathon in December. Then I can give you a more true report as to whether fascial stretch therapy really can make you faster. In the meantime, I will at least feel less stiff and more relaxed.
If you’re interested in trying fascial stretch therapy, the Stretch to Win website can help you locate a certified therapist.