What is Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST) and What can it do for You?
By Sherif Darrag, BSc, MSc in Exercise Science
What is Fascial Stretch Therapy?
Before we get into the benefits of fascial stretching and how it differs from other stretching techniques, it’s worth discussing what fascia is to begin with. Fascia is a thin, fibrous tissue that is very abundant in our bodies. It surrounds muscles, bones, organs and nerves. To think of it simply, if you were to picture your legs as muscles, the pants you have on would be the equivalent of what fascia is to the muscles. With that analogy in mind, it is then easy to visualise how any tightness in the fascia can affect the movement of those muscles and joints regardless of the tightness and mobility of those areas in themselves.
Think of how the movement in your legs is different when you’re wearing skinny jeans versus wearing pajama pants. The mobility in the legs themselves does not change, but the tightness of the tissue covering the legs can greatly affect the degree of freedom in their movement. The same applies to fascia.
If the sole purpose of stretching is to isolate muscles and stretch them, not a great deal of mobility will be achieved if the fascial mobility is not also taken into consideration.
Studies suggest that 50% of our mobility is related to our joint capsules, an area of the body where fascia is very abundant (1). Taking that into consideration, it is then easy to realise how adding traction to stretching (a gentle pull at the joint capsule) can help free up the fascia and allow for the fibrous tissue to be stretched along with the muscles, thus yielding a much greater mobility outcome.
In addition to traction, most fascial stretch therapy techniques target multiple muscles at a time, usually those related in function and fascial lines, as opposed to targeting a single muscle.
This holistic approach ensures both efficiency as well as compound stretching, in which the fascia benefits from the technique just as much as the muscles do.
What can FST do for you?
It is estimated that we lose about 10% of our flexibility every 10 years unless we actively work on maintaining it. Consistent and purposeful stretching, like that offered by means of FST, can help maintain and improve a person’s flexibility. Additionally, certified FST practitioners have a vast array of knowledge when it comes to anatomy and movement and they utilize this knowledge to make stretching more deliberate and effective.
When stretching is assisted, a person is able to put the joint and muscle through a greater range of motion compared to when trying to stretch that same body part on their own, which makes
FST that much more effective.
Some other benefits of FST include better posture, more body awareness and improved sleep.
How is FST different from other stretching techniques?
Every FST sequence includes a traction piece prior to the stretch being performed. Traction helps increase the space in joints, which allows for the fascia within the joint capsule to be stretched, giving a more profound mobility benefit than other
As mentioned earlier, 50% of our mobility is related to the joint capsule and the fascia within it (2).
How often should people get stretched?
Just as there is a great deal of variability existing between one person to the other in relation to range of motion, differences also exist in tissue extensibility, which means that some people respond to stretching better than others. It is recommended that everyone should have a full body FST session done once a week for the first 4-6 weeks and then, just like exercising and training, once the tissue gets more used to stretching, that frequency is tapered down to once every two weeks.
Sherif is a Stretch Therapist at FLXME. He is a certified Fascial Stretch Therapist, holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and is certified in DTS Level 1. He is also a certified fitness trainer.