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Is your soft tissue technique doing what you think its doing??

November 15, 2011

In this clip taken from a FUNCTIONAL RANGE RELEASE ‘Spine’ certification seminar introduction lecture, Dr. Spina briefly discusses the intent of soft tissue treatment application (viewed are actual seminar slides).  More specifically, the question is posed as to wether or not some of the various soft tissue treatment systems are actually accomplishing what they say they are accomplishing.  If the goal of the treatment application is to remove soft tissue fibrosis/adhesions/scar tissue, Dr. Spina explains why movement (preferably passive) MUST be utilized during force (treatment) application…thus drawing into question techniques that simply compress tissue and ‘glide’ over the surface of the skin.  Examples being Instrument assisted soft tissue techniques, muscle stripping, etc (really any application where the treatment force is sliding over the skin and/or is using external lubricants).

***NOTE:  the argument is NOT that the mentioned techniques have no usefulness…only that the claim that they break down fibrosis is likely false.  Other treatment uses ‘may’ be dealing with improved circulation, neurological effects, healing stimulation…

Also discussed is the fallacy surrounding the sensation of “grittyness” often felt under the various treatment instruments where it is claimed that you are feeling “scar tissue,” when in fact, you are likely feeling the various pockets of adipose tissue separated by the fascial lattice in the fascia superficialis.

If you need a refresher regarding the visualization of soft tissue fibrosis…I have added the epic “Fuzz speech” by the brilliant (and animated) Dr. Gil Headly.  This speech helps to explain why movement is the key to breaking down deposition of abnormally dense fibrosis which builds BETWEEN soft tissue structure.  Also, if you need a refresher regarding fascial anatomy (Fascia superficialis vs. Profunda) please click here.

As always, discussions and opinions are encouraged.

The “FUZZ” speech…

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 15, 2011 6:03 pm

    I like the pencil visual…very well explained Dre. My only question is this: How do you force or permit muscle groups (or bundles) to move opposite of one another? If for example your goal is to release adhesions between biceps brachi and brachialis how do you get one muscle to move anterior and the other to move posterior? (assuming we are talking about sagital plane movement). If you extend the elbow don’t both muscles move in very similar directions? Would it be better to think of stabilizing one muscle while allowing the to move over it inducing a relative opposite motion?

    Hope that made sense

    Jesse, P.T

  2. November 15, 2011 6:36 pm

    Great question Jesse…as always

    We can’t take the pencil example literally…it is not important that the cells, bundles, or muscles slide in opposite direction, only that RELATIVE motion is created between the two. When speaking of tissues within the same muscle that would lengthen at the same time….this is where our external compression + tension (ie. our tissue contact) will specify the stretch thus forcing relative tissue motion (ie. increased stretch/motion of the target contacted over the surrounding tissues).


  1. Scar tissue, knots, adhesions oh my… What is YOUR outcome measure when performing soft tissue treatments….and more importantly, is it palpable?? « Functional Anatomy Seminars – Functional Anatomic Palpation Systems™ | Functional
  2. presents…the top ranked posts of 2011 « Functional Anatomy Seminars – Functional Anatomic Palpation Systems™ | Functional Range Release™

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