Soft tissue consists of the fascia, connective tissues, muscles, tendons, fat and organs that lie beneath the skin. When these become injured pain and decreased function are the result. Soft tissue therapy seeks to speed the body’s natural healing mechanisms through manipulation and other hands-on techniques. Conditions that respond well to soft tissue therapy are muscle strains and sprains, contusions, tendonitis and bursitis.
A soft tissue therapist will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine the needs of the patient. This will take the form of an interview in which you will be asked questions regarding your medical history, lifestyle, goals for post recovery and mechanism of injury. A physical examination will include an assessment of posture, strength, range of motion and biomechanics.
Depending on the nature of the injury, one or a combination of techniques may be employed. These may include:
- Trigger point massage also known as neuromuscular therapy applies concentrated finger pressure to trigger points – the tight, painful knots in muscles that cause pain and spasm.
- Myofascial release – a form of manipulative therapy that re-balances the body. It stretches the thick bands of tissue beneath the skin to remove tightness and reduce tension.
- Sustained pressure gets rid of tight areas within the muscle and fascia.
- Friction. This is a type of Swedish massage, but it goes deeper and uses deep circular motions to the soft tissue that cause the underlying layers to rub against each other, stimulating blood flow to the area.
Some problems may be caused by soft tissue that is too tight or too short. Soft tissue therapy, accompanied by stretching exercises, alleviates tightness and elongates the tissue to improve flexibility and range of motion.
One of the advantages of soft tissue therapy or manipulative therapy is that you develop a mind-body awareness that helps you be more in tune to your condition. As with every form of therapy, you age, physical condition, medical history and needs must be taken into consideration. Not all problems will respond well to soft tissue therapy, but by trying a variety of techniques you can come to an understanding of what works best for you and be equipped with the tools for the optimum treatment outcome.