Soft Tissue Release

Soft tissue release is an advanced sports massage technique that is used to assess, stretch, and manage the soft tissues in the body, such as the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia. This approach to massage can often facilitate faster healing after an injury.

What Is Soft Tissue Release?

A form of bodywork used to address pain, dysfunction, or injury in the body’s soft tissues, soft tissue release is a fast, effective technique that promotes muscular strength and flexibility after injury. Soft tissues primarily include muscles, tendons, fascia, ligaments, skin, synovial membranes, fat, blood vessels, and nerves. By evaluating and manually manipulating these, massage therapists can provide needed support for the client’s neuromusculoskeletal system.

Within the body’s muscles are fibers that usually alternate neatly with each other and attachment points that connect the muscles to bones and other types of connective tissue. When muscle fibers become tangled or damaged, this can affect the attachment points and cause pain or restrictions in movement.

Stretching, a popular method for relieving pain and tension in the muscles, also helps to correct the alignment of the body and allow the body to optimally. However, in some clients with tight muscles, the affected muscle may not be uniformly tight—only a few fibers may be affected by tension or adhesion. Basic stretching may not be sufficient to lengthen and release these few tangled fibers, and clients may experience only temporary relief from basic stretching.

Soft tissue release targets a specific area of tension within a muscle. Once the initial assessment is complete, the distinct tangled muscle fibers can be isolated and lengthened to provide lasting pain relief. This approach may also be used to isolate and stretch a particular muscle that usually stretches along with a group of other muscles.

Soft tissue release is not limited to tissue manipulation. This technique also encourages communication with the nervous system. By applying rhythmic pressure during stretching, the massage therapist helps reprogram any muscles that may be experiencing dysfunction. This approach further helps eliminate old muscle memory and behavioral patterns that may have been adopted due to muscle trauma. When damaged muscles are helped to return to their optimal state, inflammation and pain usually decrease.

There are three general types of soft tissue release:

  • Passive, in which the therapist instigates movement.
  • Active, in which the client instigates movement while the therapist assists.
  • Weight-bearing, in which the client instigates movement while the therapist assists. This technique helps return muscles to full function.

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