Self treatment – Myofascial ‘stretching’
Usually when a patient has a Physiotherapy session, the Physiotherapist will give the patient a few exercises to do in their own time to help with recovery. Self management strategies are essential for enhanced rehabiliation. Sometimes exercises can include stretching or releasing tight muscles or fascia. Mostly, Physiotherapists teach their patients to hold a stretch for 30seconds as the research has shown this to be the optimal time. However, more recently, there has been a different school of thought within the world of ‘fascia’ that teaches patients to hold a stretch for a much longer time so that the fascia (the connective tissue), as well as the muscle, can be lengthened or ‘softened’. The fascial research suggests that this can lead to more permanent changes in the body.
So, what is the difference?
Traditional stretching tends to force a stretch at the “end range”. There can be a temptation to push the stretch too much and cause a counter-contraction in the muscle, as it protects itself from damage. Myofascial stretching on the other hand, engages with the muscle and facial restrictions by mindfully and gently moving into them. Gentle elongation or ‘telescoping’ is used to encourage the tightness to release. Myofascial stretching requires TIME because the deeper aspect of the fascia, (which when released is said to lead to more lasting changes), does not begin to release for at least 90-120 seconds. The stretch/release should then be continued for a further 3-5 minutes for maximum benefit. A patient can never over-stretch the fascia, provided they are working mindfully, listening to their body as they ‘stretch’ and not pushing into pain. It can help to visualise the restrictions softening; like butter melting, or glue stretching.
Myofascial stretching can be a great way to listen to what the body needs when it is being stretched. So, why not try it and see if it feels any different to the more common 30second stretch!?
Call and make an appointment with one of the physios at Silver physio for more information on 020 3637 8988 to enable a personalized programme to be created.