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Fascial Stretch Therapy, who is this new kid on the block and how can it help?

Fascial stretch therapy is a form of therapy that is pretty new, I first went for an FST treatment roughly 8 years ago in Vancouver. I haven’t had it since until recently when Louise Danforth joined the Medicine Tree here in Lethbridge. What is FST? I get asked a lot, so here is an article with a video demonstration at the end.

To book in with Louise you can call the Medicine Tree at 403-329-3290 or online through her website at

By the time we’re adults, we consist of approximately 70 trillion cells, all surrounded by a fluid fascial network—a kind of sticky yet slippery fabric that both holds us firmly together, yet constantly and miraculously adjusts to accommodate our every movement.

The traditional biomechanical theory of the musculoskeletal system says that muscles attach to bones via tendons that cross the joints and pull bones toward each other, restricted by other “machine parts” called ligaments. But all these anatomical terms, and the separations they imply, are false. No ligaments exist on their own; instead they blend into the periosteum—vascular connective tissue that serves as cling-wrap around the bones—and the surrounding muscles and fascial sheets. What this means is that you weren’t assembled in different places and glued together—rather, all your parts grew up together within the glue.

For example, the triceps are wedded by fascial fabric to their neighboring muscles in all directions, as well as to the ligaments deep in both the shoulder and elbow. If you contract the triceps all these other structures will have an effect and be affected. Your whole body engages in the action—not just your triceps, pectoral, and abdominal muscles.

Why Fascia Requires Special Attention

While regular movement for an hour at a gym begins to hydrate and free the superficial layers of the fascia, it’s often not enough to undo the deeper damage done the other 23 or so hours of our day. Many factors in our daily life, including poor postural habits, stress-induced muscular tension, limited movement, injury and dehydration, can cause velcro-like adhesions to form within the fascia sticking muscles together and restricting their ability to perform their individual functions. Forced to move and work as a team, the muscles become less efficient.


The deeper layers of the tissue, where adhesions and scar tissue are common, can be stubborn, requiring more than your typical movement patterns to affect change. Healthy fascia relies on movement and hydration, so targeted stretching used to manipulate the joints, muscles and surrounding tissues (fascia) can be helpful. By using gentle traction of the joints, then elongating the surrounding fascia and muscle release techniques in our therapy, we can help jumpstart the fascial repair and remodeling process to free up the tissues and increase their range of motion both during and after your session.


Understanding the Network of Fascia in the Body

The fluid fascial network that lives between each cell in your body consists of bungee cord–like fibers made mostly from collagen, including reticulin, and elastin. These fibers run everywhere and are denser in certain areas such as tendons and cartilage, and looser in others like breasts or the pancreas.


The other half of the fascial network is a gel-like web. Your cells are glued together with this gel-like substance, which is everywhere, and is more/less watery (hydrated) depending on where it is in the body and what condition it’s in.


All the circulation in your body has to pass through these fibrous and gel webs. The denser the fibers and the drier the mucous, the less the fascial web allows molecules to flow through it: nourishment in one direction and waste in the other. Stretching eases the fascial webbing, as well as hydrates the fascia gel, making it more permeable.

More on that mechanical environment: Tension in your body—slumping your shoulders forward, for example—prompts the fibroblasts (the most common cells found in connective tissue) to make more fibers that will arrange themselves along the line of stress. These bulked-up fascial fibers will form a barrier that will slow or stop capillary-sourced food from reaching your cells. You’ll get enough to survive, but function will slow down. In addition to a thicker barrier of fascial-tissue fibers, the gel that completes your fluid fascial network will also become thicker and more rigid, which contributes to stopping the flow to your cells.

The fix: deep strengthening and stretching squeezes your fascial network the way you would squeeze a sponge. These cells that were trapped in the fascia rush in hoards to the capillaries and your bloodstream. Many of us may feel out of sorts after we release deeply held tension—that’s your liver dealing with the waste cells that have been released from the tissues. Try for more movement to keep the process going.

Dr. Shawn Caldwall from Denver Sports Recovery