Fascial Stretch Therapy or FST is an assisted manual stretching technique that is done on a massage table with a leg secured down for maximal results. FST was created in 1995 by Ann Frederick, and further developed over the years with her husband Chris Frederick. FST’s focus is to elongate, align, and balance the fascia (connective tissue that runs throughout the body). The results one can get from just one session are unparalleled to any other body therapy. This stretching technique is pain-free, and it will not only improve flexibility and range of motion, but it will increase strength, balance, coordination, posture, and body awareness.
FST was founded on 10 principles, which I utilize during every stretching session. These 10 principles are the core of what makes this technique have lasting results. For the sake of time and not boring you, I am just going to touch on a few of them. One very important aspect of FST is “Traction.” Traction can be defined as a sustained pulling force applied mechanically to a part of the body. As a therapist, I can manually apply this force to a specific joint or muscle group with the correct angle, intensity, and duration. Although it can be done with an outside object like a resistance band or an inversion table, traction is extremely difficult to accomplish on your own. The reason traction isn’t as effective when doing on you own, is relaxation. You can’t entirely relax the nervous system when you are applying your own force. On a massage table with a therapist doing the work, you can completely relax, concentrate on the tempo of your breathing, and put your nervous system into a parasympathetic state (calming). This is the state your body needs to be in to make gains in your flexibility, range of motion, imbalances, and dysfunctions.
“Targeting the entire joint” is also a very important, integral part of FST. 47% of restricted or tight fascia lies in the joint capsule, making it extremely significant in relation to increasing range of motion. A joint is made up of layers of fascia, that connect to ligaments, that connect to bone, on both sides of the joint. A hypo mobile joint or tight joint can be the cause of impingement, pain, and weakness. FST uses traction, oscillation, and circumduction(TOC) to unlock or release the tightness in and around specific joints. Along with TOC, FST uses multi-directional movement patterns in different planes of movement to reach deep into the joint capsule. Once that tightness in the joint is released, stretching the myofascial associated with that joint will be easy and effective. So once again, a technique that is entirely too difficult to reach on your own. If you are using an object like a resistance band or a stretching belt to move the arm or leg to target the joint, you can’t completely reach all angles within that joint capsule, as a result you’ll get sub-par results.
This leads to the final principle I will discuss, which is, “Tune the nervous system to current needs.” Depending on the goal, whether you’re stretching in a dynamic pattern in a warm-up or pre-game event, or if you are doing a restorative, slow, cool-down stretch, it starts with your breathing pattern. The tempo of your breathing is in direct correlation with your nervous system. A faster breathing pattern will tune the sympathetic nervous system to meet the demands of the body, and a slower breathing pattern will tune the parasympathetic nervous system to provide a relaxing situation. This relaxing state, with the proper timing, tension, and duration of a specific movement or stretch, is where progress occurs. A therapist can identify where dysfunction or impingement lies and can work a specific fascial line to restore function.
So in conclusion, let me be clear, I am not saying do not self-stretch, I think it’s important when done properly. Self-stretching can be effective with focus, diligence, and repetition. One must think about tractioning the joint, with oscillation, rotational, and diagonal movement patterns, all while concentrating on a breathing pattern to meet whatever the goal is at that moment. I just touched on a few very basic concepts of FST, there will be more to come, it is a complex technique with may components. Let a Certified Fascial Stretch Therapist help you with your stretch program. Happy Stretching!
Fascial Stretch Specialist