The soft tissue within the human body comprises muscles, tendons, ligaments, and their protective outer covering known as fascia. After injury, trauma, or overuse, this tissue can shorten and tighten, which causes aches, pains, and restricted movement. Soft tissue mobilization is an umbrella term for manual therapy techniques that individuals can utilize to restore or optimize function.
Several different types of soft tissue mobilization and manipulation help relax the muscles and enhance one’s range of motion. The main objective of this rejuvenating physical therapy is to heal the soft tissue with hands-on stretching movements that mobilize and manipulate the muscles. Let’s take a closer look at the most common techniques to provide pain relief, flexibility, and full functionality.
Strain-Counterstrain: Positional Release
In this type of soft tissue manipulation, an experienced physical therapist uses passive body positioning tactics. The strain-counterstrain technique focuses on relieving muscle and joint tightness by identifying key pain points. Once located, a therapist will hold that position in place for up to three minutes to ease the tender points of the soft tissue into relaxation. Returning the muscle to its status quo functioning provides immediate relief and restoration.
Cross Friction: Connective Tissue Massage
Cross friction is another of the different types of soft tissue mobilization and manipulation. Performed most often at the site of an injury, this deep tissue massage tactic promotes healing via increased circulation. Known alternatively as transverse friction massage, therapists apply localized pressure strokes transversely across muscle, tendon, or ligament fibers to minimize scar tissue formation.
ASTYM: IASTM – Graston Techniques
ASTYM and IASTM are more in-depth techniques that utilize specially-designed steel or plastic tools to break up scar tissues. This type of soft tissue mobilization activates the body’s natural healing response. As a therapeutic method, therapists use augmented mobilization tools to detect knots or muscle restrictions and treat them using the hand-held instrument. Either can work well to reduce inflammation and promote regeneration through applying mild-moderate pressure.
Similar to ASTYM, IASTM is a non-invasive treatment using purposefully designed tools. This instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization provides superior pain relief and boosted motion—when performed correctly, that is. The unique mechanical advantage for this tool friction massage is that a therapist is not always required. You can use this technique to take care of your own soft tissues and dive even deeper with self-myofascial release.
Trigger Point Therapy: Self-Myofascial Release
Self-myofascial release is a manual therapy technique used to massage localized tissue areas. By targeting trigger points with an IASTM tool, users can reduce pain caused by tight and mobility-restricting fascia. Foam rollers and standard tools on the market cannot produce the same concentrated force as exclusively designed and patented manual self-massage tools that manipulate the soft tissue.
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