Properly stretching fascia can result in excellent recovery from a host of symptoms.
Fascia that contributes to the symptoms of a repetitive strain injury is damaged tissue. It does not respond to normal wear and tear. It needs to be treated in a special way to avoid further damage. Its limits need to be respected. Learning how to work with and stretch fascia that is in this altered state takes a bit of practice and some guidance using some easy to learn techniques.
Take a look at the following fascinating video from Dr. Gil Hedley, PhD. about stretching and its effect on fascia. This video was originally made in 2005. Since then, Dr. Hedley has added notes and comments to the video explaining his more recent thoughts about fascia and stretching. Be sure to check them out as you watch.
Note: This video shows a dissection of a human cadaver. Well worth watching, but if you are squeamish, feel free to move on.
Will any stretch do the trick?
Will any stretching technique get you the results you are looking for?
The fascial adhesions that are contributing to your symptoms can be located anywhere. And since the muscles, nerves, blood vessels and bones under your skin form a complex network of tissue going in all directions and through all depths, you will need some guidance to find all the places in your body that are contributing to your injury.
Don't worry. It's not hard to do. It just takes a little practice.
It's sort of like a "Magical Mystery Tour" of sorts (with a nod to the Beatles). You follow a simple process to find an adhesion. Stretch it properly so the tissue returns to a more normal state. Find as many adhesions as you can and repeat this process as many times as it takes. The more fascia you can restore back to normal, the more your symptoms will fade…
Until you are finally free of them!
Adhesions like to be released in the proper order. Generally speaking, more superficial fascia responds better when it is released before the deeper layers of fascia. Like a gatekeeper of sorts, restricted fascia that is on the surface of muscles, or just under the skin, can prevent the release of deeper fascia. So, releasing from the outer to the inner layers seems to work best for most people.
On occasion, an adhesion can prevent another adhesion from releasing. So, some experimentation, and a willingness to try different stretches, or to stretch from different angles, can often be the key to success.
There is an autonomic nervous system response in the body known as the Stretch Reflex. It is a protective mechanism that is built in, automatic, and beyond our ability to control. The best we can do is understand how it works, and respect the limits it sets on our ability to safely stretch tissue that is damaged.
The Stretch Reflex is a very important protective mechanism in the body. It helps prevent accidental fascial tears, which many see as muscle tears. It also generates the sensation of stretching so it is important to understand what is a safe stretching sensation and what is the stretch reflex trying to prevent an over stretching accident.
The body has the ability to sense where it is in space at all times. It is also able to register any limits there may be on fascia's ability to stretch. These built-in traits are called proprioception.
When someone attempts to stretch in a way that is supported and within a safe range, the stretch gives a stretch sensation that fades in intensity. This gradual lessening of intensity represents the slow and gradual release of the fascia and the restrictions that may be impeding it.
If the fascia is stretched too aggressively, the Stretch Reflex will become engaged and hold on to prevent over-stretching and potential damage to that tissue. What the stretching person feels, however, is a "good, strong stretch" that either stays at the same level of intensity, or increases in intensity. They are fooled into believing they are accomplishing something with their stretching routine. In fact, they are only feeling the body resisting the stretch and nothing is actually being accomplished.
Of course, it is always possible to overstretch. One hears about this all the time in professional sports. It is not uncommon to hear about a star athlete being injured in their pre-game warm-up, almost always due to overly aggressive stretching of fascia that is adhered, shortened, or compromised in some other way. It's an unnecessary injury that could have been prevented with the proper education and practice.
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