How Soft Tissue Therapy can help people who suffer with minor and chronic musculoskeletal issues.
Soft Tissue Therapy is the management, manipulation and rehabilitation of soft tissues of the body including muscles, tendons and ligaments. It is applicable not just to sports people but to anybody wishing to guard against or recover from a soft tissue injury. The techniques used by soft tissue therapists have been developed to ensure effective and efficient results are gained from each massage given. The benefits can also help relieve the many day to day problems, repetitive strain injury, sprains, tension, fatigue, that everyone experiences. Soft Tissue Therapy also assists with preventive treatment and injury recovery.
The ways that soft tissue therapy can help people with injury are numerous
Enables quicker recovery from injury by implementation of the most appropriate soft tissue techniques at each stage of the recovery cycle.
Improves circulation and lymphatic flow - fresh and well-oxygenated blood is essential for healing the micro-injuries and traumas we get by using our bodies that cause pain. Soft Tissue Therapy helps in improving and increasing the blood circulation.
Assists in the removal of metabolic waste - increases the lymphatic circulation, which means better and faster removal of toxins and metabolic waste which in turn will help get rid of the pain.
Increase or decrease muscle tone - toning your muscles reduces fat and body weight. Weight loss on the body's skeleton results in an improvement in health, which benefits the heart, joints and skeletal system.
Increase or decrease muscle length - This improves your performance in physical activities, decreases risk of injury, helps joints move through full range of motion and enables muscles to work most effectively.
Increased flexibility and range of motion - A tight muscle or tensed muscle restricts the range of motion of a joint and reduces the flexibility. Techniques can be used to help release the tightened muscles and any disturbances in the Fascia and release the muscle tension. This helps to increase the performance of the muscle which in turn increases the Range of motion, flexibility and control of the joints.
Increased muscle strength - a strong body allows you to perform movements and activities that require power without getting tired, helps maintain a healthy body weight by burning calories and enhancing your body composition, helps to build healthier muscles and bones (aiding good posture), aid stability, balance, and flexibility, making injuries and falls less likely.
Remodel scar tissue when required
Release Trigger Points – Trigger points are hard palpable nodules in the muscle fibres. It causes an imbalance in the muscle fibres and leads to pain. Soft Tissue techniques can break those hard nodules and release trigger points (NMT & Trigger point therapy).
Postural analysis can help clients improve their posture to reduce the risk of future injury
Assist in mental preparation for sporting participation
Improves sleep and stress levels – soft tissue techniques help activate our bodies system to release endorphins (happy hormones).
Relaxation - techniques involving stretching & contracting muscles, massage techniques such as effleurage and petrissage and trigger point therapy all give a soothing effect to the muscle fibres helping them return to a more normal state and aid relaxation. When people become relaxed, their heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen consumption, and salivary cortisol levels decrease. This helps reduce stress and anxiety, which are the two leading causes of depression.
If you are a sports performer, of any level, a sports specific massage can be beneficial at various stages of participation. For example the conditioning / training phase, pre competition, inter competition, post competition & post travel. Regardless of your experiences in sport or exercise, whether you exercise socially or compete to an international level - Soft Tissue Therapy may have something to offer.
Different soft tissue techniques are appropriate for different situations.
General Massage effleurage/petrissage
Effleurage and petrissage are massage techniques that encourages relaxation, blood circulation and lymph flow. Effleurage increases circulation by increasing the temperature of muscles and preparing them for more vigorous massage techniques. Effleurage also stimulates the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system encourages waste products to leave the body which helps to maintain health. Benefits include increased healing, improved recovery and relaxation.
Soft Tissue Release (STR)
STR is a technique used by massage and manual therapists to restore normal flexibility to a muscle. It is particularly useful when a muscle becomes very tense and shortened. It is often used after a muscle has been ‘warmed up’ with lighter techniques such as effleurage. STR uses precise pressure combined with active or passive stretching. The therapist will press onto a muscle to create a ‘lock’. This effectively shortens the usable length of muscle. Then the therapist will stretch the muscle, or instruct to move to actively stretch the muscle.
Muscle Energy Techniques (MET)
One of the main uses of this method is to normalise joint range, rather than increase flexibility, and techniques can be used on any joints with restricted range of motion (ROM).
Myofascial release (MFR) therapy focuses on releasing muscular shortness and tightness.
Neuro Muscular Techniques (NMT)
Neuromuscular massage therapy involves applying alternating levels of concentrated pressure to the trigger point – usually using the fingers, knuckles or elbow. NMT is the use of direct pressure to release natural trigger points to provide relief from pain from areas of major tension
Positional release therapy, also known as "strain counterstrain", is a therapeutic technique that uses a position of comfort of the body, its appendages, and its tissues to resolve somatic dysfunction.
Soft Tissue therapy is beneficial from the post-acute stage of injury (+3 days post injury) onwards. Prior to that in the acute stage (up to 2 days post injury where symptoms include heat & redness, swelling, pain and dysfunction) the focus is on allowing the body's natural healing process to run it's course. Rest, ice, compression, elevation and anti-inflammatory drugs to alleviate the pain is recommended instead.
In the post-acute stage (3+days post injury) once acute symptoms are reduced, applying ice, compression and elevation should continue but the therapist can help with starting passive remobilisation of the area. Contrast bathing (alternating ice/heat) may also help.
Soft Tissue therapy will progress over time as the injury heals; the therapist progressing from passive movement to active and resisted movement (gradually building up to normal activity through ongoing rehab).
As part of a recovery/treatment plan, soft tissue therapists can help by ensuring patients understand advice on what to avoid in order to prevent injury reoccurring.
Take time off - don't over train. Plan to have at least 1 day off per week and at least one month off per year from training to allow the body to recover.
Wear the right gear and protection
Strengthen muscles. Do conditioning exercises to strengthen muscles.
Increase flexibility. Stretching exercises to increase flexibility. Stretching should also be incorporated into a daily fitness plan.
Use proper technique when carrying out everyday and sporting activities.
Take breaks if playing sport - rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent dehydration.
If participating in sport or physical activity, do not ignore and/or play through pain.
Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise.
Having a regular sports massage, keeping muscles supple and free from tension and keeping psychologically well is also important. Soft Tissue therapists can also help with advice on general wellbeing.
Incorporate physical activity/exercise into your weekly routine. Doing this improves your health and reduce the risk of developing several diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Physical activity and exercise can have immediate and long-term health benefits. 30 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous activity is recommended. Regular exercise contributes not only to your physical health but also to your mental health and mental fitness.
Keep the body moving - maintaining movement throughout your work or study time. Regular posture breaks and movement are an important part of maintaining physical wellbeing. Breaks will help to avoid overuse injuries and muscle fatigue, as well as supporting good brain function and helping us to manage our emotional states. Moving regularly throughout the day also supports a healthy metabolism keeping our whole system well regulated.
Eat a healthy diet & stay hydrated. We need to provide our physical self with the correct nutrients to stay healthy. Use snacks as a way to ensure you are eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and drink lots of water.
Getting good sleep is as important as a healthy diet and regular exercise in maintaining our overall health and wellbeing. Sleep is the time for the body to recharge and repair and for the mind to rest
Investigate the best ways of best coping with stress that work for you. Different things and strategies work for different people so finding your happy place and things that allow you to manage stress better.
Try for good wellbeing. Don’t aim for perfect physical wellbeing – try instead to be as healthy as possible right now. Creating an idealised vision of what perfect healthy behaviour would look like and then failing to meet it can result in frustration, disappointment and loss of motivation. As a result you can be tempted to stop trying at all. Try for good wellbeing – but accept the reality of your current circumstances. Create a daily and weekly structure that supports healthy behaviours. If you regularly exercise at the same time every day or week, then it will become a habit and much easier to maintain. Recruit allies to help you. Having other people who can encourage you and remind you why you wanted to be healthier can help you to stay motivated. Plan – if you plan and prepare to eat healthily you are much more likely to do so.