The benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy…
…rehab after injury, increased flexibility and mobility, & so much more.
If you don’t know of it yet, it’s time!
While the title of this blog may not sound sexy, I’m here to tell you it is! What could be sexier than feeling better in your entire body and experiencing relief from pain after an injury?! Or, improved performance in your workouts? How about increased mobility and flexibility as you age? More energy? Better posture?
If you’re not familiar with Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) — this blog may change your life. Really!
I first learned about Fascial Stretch Therapy about six years ago when my personal trainer and close friend, Sandra Swami, was in training to become a Level 1, 2 & eventually a Level 3 Fascial Stretch Therapist. I benefited from being one of her early clients, but learned of its true value in the summer of 2015 when I experienced a debilitating sciatica issue.
Sandra’s been my go-to person every time I experience tightness or soreness and don’t know where to start. Case in point, plantar fasciitis earlier this year. I called Sandra and got a fascial stretch. That combined with rest, ice, and regular stretching exercises that I could do at home and it healed over time.
Most recently, at Sandra’s urging, I found a skilled Fascial Stretch Therapist in Maine to help me rehab from a fall on the ice a few weeks ago. Enter Jillian Magee, Fascial Stretch Therapist, Portland, Maine.
So what is Fascial Stretch Therapy, and why am I so excited that I’m devoting an entire blog and urging my readers to check it out?
EDITOR’S NOTE: I’m no expert, rather just a wowed client of two different Fascial Stretch Therapists. So, read this section as such, and if you are intrigued, check the official links below.
Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) is a type of stretching that targets not only the muscles, but the fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, bones, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and joints. It’s everywhere — in, around, and between everything from our skin to our bones, and it’s all interconnected. The best analogy I’ve heard is that fascia is like a fish-net stocking holding everything in place.
Fascial Stretch Therapy is done by a trained professional who manually stretches you while you lay on a table, like a massage table. But, it is far different than massage, yoga, Pilates, or even our own form of regular stretching after exercise which targets the muscles only. In my view and experience, it’s far more effective than most or all of the above and the benefits of FST tend to last longer.
Some describe fascial stretch as moving the joint along with the surrounding tissues to help the fascia and muscles relax at the same time. The key to a good fascial stretch is that it’s done by a skilled professional — one who is trained to manipulate/stretch your body to address specific problem areas. Thus, it’s customized to you!
The length of a stretching session can vary. I’ve had stretches ranging from 30 to 45 minutes, to one hour. I tend to experience regular tightness in my hips, so that’s always a problem area. A skilled fascial stretch therapist can take one look at a client and know what to do. I continue to find that pretty remarkable.
During times of injury — like my recent fall on the ice and my Sciatica flare up in 2015 — my therapist knew exactly where to start and how to work with me to carefully address problem areas slowly, providing nearly immediate relief, with more relief over subsequent sessions.
Who benefits from fascial stretch?
Fascial Stretch Therapy was developed in 1995 by Ann Frederick, the first “flexibility specialist” to work with professional and elite athletes to improve athletic performance. However, it is now much more widely used on us “regular folk” — those who like to work out hard, those who have injuries, anyone who is stressed, or just plain aging. Yep, you got it, almost everyone!
Ann Frederick has an intro video that explains FST here. In it she describes how repetitive movement, gravity, and stress layers on over the years causing all kinds of problems in our bodies. Fascial stretch can open up tightness deep inside the joints and all the way out.
I see FST becoming much more common in gyms and fitness centers across the country. The fact that I could find not just one, but several, Level 3 Fascial Stretch Therapists in Maine is testament to that fact.
How fascial stretch helped my injury and provided almost immediate relief
These past few weeks as I’ve worked to recover from my fall on the ice, I’ve seen Jillian in Portland, Maine. After meeting me and doing a 10 minute consult, she knew exactly what to do! She combined FST with Neuromuscular Therapy — a specialized form of deep tissue massage where digital pressure and friction are used to release areas of strain in the muscle. She described it in layperson’s terms as “helping to break up the junk all jammed up inside and loosen it up.” Somehow I get that!
In the first session, she worked largely on my head and neck area, even though I told her of the bruised ribs which hurt like hell. It worked. She knew the real issues were related to the jarring my neck and spine took in the fall, causing the headaches. Last week’s stretch focused heavily on my incredibly tight/immobile hips and it made a huge difference in my mobility, not to mention how I felt.
The combined neuromuscular work with FST helped break up scar tissue and increased my range of motion in the injured areas almost immediately. I noted that my headaches dissipated shortly after the first session, and everything is improved after the second stretch. I know I need additional work on my hips (always) and can’t wait to go back for a third session next week!
The benefits of fascial stretch
The benefits of FST run the gamut from increased range of motion — flexibility and mobility, to muscular balance and symmetry, to increased performance, increased circulation, improved posture, more energy, and of course reduced pain and reduced risk of future injury.
I read an article in Shape Magazine recently that claimed weight loss as a benefit of fascial stretch, too. It asserted that when you feel better and move with less pain, you want to move more and since exercise helps you lose weight, FST can be an indirect benefit.
I’m not sure I would personally go as far as to claim weight loss as a benefit of FST because I fear people will claim it as another possible magic potion — and I don’t believe in magic when it comes to weight loss. But, the theory certainly is logical based on the “exercise more” rationale.
How to connect to a skilled FST therapist
In this blog I’ve just given you two of the very best Fascial Stretch Therapists that I know. If you live in MN, you won’t find a more skilled or amazing practitioner in FST, combined with all things health and wellness related, than the gifted Sandra Swami. In Maine, though Jillian Magee is new to me, I am a huge fan, and you can contact here her.
Both Sandra and Jillian are Level 3 certified — the most advance level — therapists and combine FST as part of their regular personal training business. Sandra has a created a signature method/class that combines self-fascial stretch with movements inspired by yoga, pilates and dance. She teaches regularly at The SweatShop in St. Paul, MN. She also does in-home stretches and personal training out of her home studio in the Mpls-St. Paul area. Jillian is a certified personal trainer, a massage therapist, a Fascial Stretch Therapist and certified in neuromuscular therapy. She can be found here and/or at Bay Club Fitness in Portland.
I’m so happy to be well on my way to full recovery from my injury and just as soon as our spring snowstorm passes in Maine, I will venture back to the gym @Wilcox Wellness & Fitness. I’ve been away almost three weeks now from hard-core workouts and, I hate to say it, but I miss it. I am sure I will not be saying that out loud after my first class back! It bounds to take time to get back to where I was a few weeks ago.
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