The 5 Self Care Soft Tissue Modalities Your Not Using.

Justin Roethlingshoefer MS, CSCS, SCCC, LMT

Assistant Director, SHIFT Human 2.0

When people say make sure you look after your soft tissue, what does that even mean? Many people nod their head in agreement and proceed to grab a foam roller, do a few passes on the legs and think they have done a sufficient job; but is that the case? For some the answer might be yes, however for the vast majority the answer is no. There is a saying, ‘you can’t change before you know you are doing”, and hopefully by the end of this we will have educated you on some different techniques to give you a different choice to make.

Before we can understand how to aid in the recovery process we must know what it is exactly that we are trying to rebuild, recover, and release. ‘Soft tissue’ by definition is the tissue including tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues, fat, and synovial membranes (which are connective tissue), and muscles, nerves and blood vessels (which are not connective tissue). It is sometimes defined by what it is not. By understanding this we can begin to look into how to care for it.

There have been many advancements in self care over the past year and here are the top 5 that you may or may not be using!

1 Massage-

This modality has several different forms. The use of graston, scrapping, cupping, and traditional massage all fall under this category. This modality largely stems around the increase in blood flow to help eliminate toxins that occur with the breakdown of those tissues. The promotion of blood flow back to the lymph nodes for drainage as well as the elimination of tissue tangling will enhance the body’s ability to get back to a resting baseline state. Much of the research presented recently supports the concept that we cannot stretch fascia, however the pain receptors around it and their involvement with the central nervous system are what have the positive response to massage.

2 Cryotherapy-

Utilizing cryotherapy has been used since the beginning of time but more recently has been seen in full body form (the cold stand up tubes). WBC has been widely accepted and used in Europe and Asia over the last few decades. Studies have established WBC as a powerful source for treatment of inflammatory disorders and injuries. Professional and collegiate athletes are using WBC as a treatment to decrease recovery time, increase athletic performance, and boost the body’s metabolic rate. Individuals who undergo WBC report being immediately refreshed and reinvigorated with a lasting boost of energy.

3 Contrast Temperature Water Immersion

The use of contrast temperature water therapy by Hamlin[16] and Morton[17] showed a substantial reduction in blood lactate concentration and heart rate during the therapy. They concluded that contrast water immersion therapy is a valid method of hastening the decrease in lactate levels during recovery.

4 Compression Garments-

In these special garments the medical grade compression assists the flow of blood back to the heart to ensure a clearing of toxins created by exercise and activity. Wearing compression garments during the recovery phase may have assisted blunt markers of muscle damage and improved perceived recovery of soreness.

5 Implement Rolling Techniques (self-care)-

This implies to the utilization of any type of implement to aid in the soft tissue care of yourself. The health and fitness industry has made a large amount of money on different self-care ‘toys’. These can range from foam rollers, to massage sticks, to rock mats, and back massagers or as basic as the corner of a door jam and a golf ball. Any tool that can be used to assist in the care of an individual’s soft tissue can fall into this category. This is the easiest and most readily available for every person, all it takes is a little education and creativity.

The biggest thing to realize is that there is no wrong prescription. Every person is going to have a different method or system that makes them feel good and helps optimize their body’s response to stress.

There are a couple of guidelines when using some of these techniques:

Make sure the tissue is warm before administering any release techniques, a hot tub or active movement (active recovery modality) would be an example.
Avoid cryotherapy and then getting soft tissue manipulation done. The tissue will become hard and immobile thus potentially causing more pain.
Work towards the heart. It will aid in flushing the toxins being released.

Happy body care!!

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