How does Myofascial Stretching differ from traditional stretching?
Stretching, in general, can accomplish two things; calming down of excessive muscular activity/tone, lengthening of connective tissue/fascia.
Traditional stretching is two-dimensional (although our body, of course, is three-dimensional) and typically involves stretching a muscle over a joint and involves holding the stretch for a brief period of time (15-30 seconds). Traditional stretching addresses the muscle and the elastic tissue, but not the collagenous, firmer component of our connective tissue. Results are therefore partial and temporary. Lots of people have been diligent about regular stretching for years and still feel stiff and prone to injury!
Myofascial Stretching differs from conventional stretching in three primary ways:
– Time element: Myofascial Stretches are held continuously for at least 90-120 seconds. This is how long it takes for the fascia to begin to let go. Shorter stretches do not affect the collagenous aspect of the fascia (connective tissue) and therefore lead to only temporary, partial results.
– Active elongation: This would for example mean actively extending your arm away from the body and telescoping or reaching your arm as if you’re trying to make it longer, feeling how this lengthens the tissue in a three-dimensional way through your arm.
– Stretching and strengthening occur simultaneously During active elongation of the body, muscle groups opposing the tight fascia contract in a sustained manner. This prolonged isometric contraction of muscles against the resistance of the fascial barrier strengthens them, helping to maintain the elongated state of the tissue you’ve just released.
Oftentimes, pain or stiffness in the body leads to some degree of dissatisfaction with our current state and, without us really noticing it, us working against our bodies in order to correct what we find wrong with it. An example of this would be stretching with the (not always conscious) mindset of trying to force tissue to lengthen.