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Soft Tissue Techniques

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Trauma, accidents, local inflammation, immobilization and emotional tension all can lead to the local irritation that causes muscle tension. As muscle tension increases a number of problems occur: Muscle fibers tighten, blood vessels become compressed, tissue metabolites are retained and local edema occurs. This process eventually leads to limited muscular elongation, restricted joint movement, tendon function restrictions, fascial shortening and functional disability.

Soft tissue techniques work by affecting a variety of components within the soft tissue structure. These components include the musculature, fascia, vasculature and local nervous system, which will each be described below:

  • By applying a direct force to tight muscles, the muscles can be stretched or kneaded until relaxation occurs.
  • Similarly, as muscles are stretched, the fascia surrounding each muscle is also stretched until fascial relaxation occurs.
  • In relation to vasculature, soft tissue techniques have been shown to increase the amount of circulation to the muscles and fascia. As more blood reaches the tight muscles, the amount of oxygen and nutritional components reaching the muscles increase, as well as increasing the rate of removal of local metabolites and waste products. All this leads to more rapid healing rates.

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The choice of technique is based largely on treatment goals. There are three basic methods used when treating with soft tissue techniques:

  • Traction techniques (or stretching techniques) engage the origin and insertion of the myofascial structures by longitudinally stretching the muscle fibers.
  • Kneading techniques involve a rhythmic lateral stretching of the myofascial structure much like stretching a bowstring. In these techniques, the origin and insertion of the muscle remain stationary.
  • Inhibition techniques use sustained deep pressure to promote soft tissue relaxation.
Soft tissue techniques are used in combination with other treatment modalities and stretches in order to maximize results. This combination applies the principle of synergy to make sure a patient's somatic dysfunction is as resolved as possible.

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