The 'techie' bit.....Which techniques and what are they?
'In anatomy, the term soft tissue refers to tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being bone. Soft tissue includes tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, synovial membranes and muscles, nerves and blood vessels’
Soft Tissue Therapy is more than massage. Using a range of techniques outlined below, I can help discover dysfunction and design a suitable treatment plan to aid and restore function to soft tissue. I have knowledge of conditions and injuries such as whiplash, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, shin splints and back pain, as well as the means to treat and enable pain relief and rehabilitation.
Used for warming up an area or flushing away tissue debit after deeper work. Light repetitive and sweeping effleurage is used to increase local venous and lymphatic return (manual lymphatic drainage), to increase local circulation or to reduce oedema, for example treating tissues around an injury to aid the healing process. This is one of most affected treatments for any trauma/ acute injury, reducing pain, swelling and promoting healing.
This is used along side effleurage to warm up and prepare the tissues for deeper work by increasing micro circulation, loosening the fibres, bringing heat to the area and increasing tissue pliability and flexibility. After deeper work has been applied to an area both these techniques will flush away any tissue debit and increase local circulation.
Frictions are mainly used to break down existing and forming adhesions between muscle fibres and scar tissue. Cross fibre frictions are especially good at doing this by realigning the collagen fibres of a forming scar. This is similar to repeatedly rolling your fingertips over a pile of toothpicks lying in a random order. Eventually the toothpicks will orient themselves in a perpendicular direction (Hertling, Kessler, 1990). Frictions enable more flexibility/pliability in the scar tissue or muscle and therefore enable better function in the soft tissues and increased mobility of movement.
Muscle Energy Techniques (MET)
‘Muscle Energy Techniques (MET) are a form of soft tissue, or joint manipulations or mobilisations, deriving from osteopathic medicine, employed in the treatment of musculoskeletal dysfunctions’ (Leon Chaitow – Muscle Energy Techniques Fourth Edition).
MET is a osteopathic manipulative tool that the remedial therapists now use to diagnosis and treat many musculoskeletal problems. It is used to restore normal levels of tone in hypertonic muscles, strengthen weak muscles, prepare muscles for subsequent stretching, increase joint mobility, boost local circulation and improve musculoskeletal function.
To explain this simply your muscles are said to have a natural level of contraction (tone) and they also work in pairs (agonist/antagonist) to enable your skeleton and in particular your joints to be held in a neutral position. When one muscle or muscles in a pair is over contracting (tight and short) and its opposing muscle is under used and weak (in a lengthened position) then this will move the joint out of its neutral/natural position, inevitably resulting in muscle soreness, joint stiffness and pain. When you complain of sore or tight shoulders and neck, in most cases this will result in a shortening (over contraction) of the many of the muscles in the front of the upper body, causing the shoulder and neck to pull forward out of position. This puts the upper back and neck muscles on a stretch. This is a classic postural problem affecting our modern way of life where we are either sitting in the driving seat or working at a computer for long periods of time.
Soft Tissue Release (STR)
STR is used to release areas of scar tissue, adhesions and restore elasticity to muscles, to increase recovery rate of soft tissue injuries, restore muscular imbalance and relieve chronic pain. The technique can be used through clothes and has its uses in a sporting environment as part of a pre/intra/post event sports massage. STR should not be used on acute injury, for risk of re-damage to the healing tissues. It can be used on tissues around acute injuries to release secondary tension and aid blood flow to the injury therefore speeding up the healing process.
Myofascial Release (MFR)
Have you ever wondered how the human skeleton is held in its upright position without just collapsing into a pile of bones on the floor ?
Well, if you consider that our bodies are held together in a tensegrity system (the bones floating within a tensioned network) and there was a pull in one part of this structure, for example a tight/short hamstring muscle, then based on this model this could potentially affect an area of the body some distance from this muscle. This is how postural alignment can be affected where shortness in one part of the fascial chain can pull and distort the posture in another part the body. This gives the therapist a better understanding in assessment and treatment of postural problems. To explain this much better please watch the following footage from Tom Myers, the leading author in this subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95M7RNMxe28
The technique involves using very little to no oil or by using massage wax, to enable the therapist to grip the restricted area of fascia in order to stretch and release it and ineviablity restore balance back to the body's facial network.
Neuromuscular Technique (NMT) / Trigger Point Therapy (TPT)
Neuromuscular techniques (NMT) work to restore normal function in muscle tone caused by some form or stress or injury. When injury or stress is caused to muscle tissue the nervous system responds by creating more tone (a contraction causing shortening) in the muscle tissue as a protective mechanism
The problem occurs when the injury has healed but the tension in the muscle remains and the body thinks this is now the normal level of tone in the muscle. Other situations that may cause shortness/hypertonicity in the muscle are habitual factors like postural distortion (sustain isometric contraction when working at a computer), biomechanical dysfunction (faulty movement patterns e.g. improper bending and lifting), psycho emotional (stress/depression) and so the list goes on.
Trigger points form in these hypertonic muscles or its fascia, which are defined as hyperirritable/ tender spots. When these painful spots are pressed and cause referred pain patterns then these are known as true/primary trigger points, but if they only cause local pain when pressed they are know at reflex points / latent trigger points. For NMT purposes trigger or reflex points are used as a gateway to influence the reflex pathways and enable the therapist to reset the tone in the muscle back to a normal level.