Why was Functional Range Release™ developed and how is it different?
The idea behind the Functional Range Release systems was born out of Dr. Spina’s trademarked system of physical training termed Functional Range Conditioning™. Being a long-time mixed-martial artist as well as a stretching advocate, Dr. Spina created the training system using sound, scientific principles providing an approach to achieving incredible flexibility, along with flexible strength.
The basic premise of the conditioning system is that the tissue which is responsible for limiting a person’s range of motion is not the muscle as is commonly believed. Rather, motion is restricted due to the nervous system’s control of that muscle. The nervous system’s central mechanism which controls muscle length contains a ‘stretch threshold’ which, when exceeded, triggers a stretch reflex causing the muscle to contract. This threshold is set far beyond what is necessary to prevent injury.
Therefore, while the potential for further movement exists, the central nervous system will not allow this movement to occur. Thus, this ‘safe’ range is not determined by the actual flexibility or extensibility of the muscle tissue itself, but rather is the ‘decision’ of the central nervous system. It is the goal of the conditioning system to simultaneously increase this threshold thus improving range of motion, while developing strength in the new extended range, termed increasing the ‘functional range’.
It is well known that following an injury, there is an inherent response programmed in the central nervous system leading to the contraction of the muscles in the area of the lesion which acts as a defense system to prevent further injury. Along with this increased muscular tension, the connective tissue surrounding the muscle fibers – endomysium, perimysium, epimisium, as well as the fascia between the soft tissues in the area now known to have the capacity to contract in very short periods of time – also tightens.
The end result of this contraction leads to the development of restrictive scar tissue/fibrosis. The fibrosis, having a high coefficient of friction, leads to irritation of surrounding tissues and eventual activation of pain fibers. This tissue also has the capacity to adhere tissue structures to each other thus preventing independent movement and function, leading to biomechanical compensation patterns, aberrant movements, and dysfunction.
Considering the process outlined above, the intended target with the application of various soft-tissue therapies should not be the ‘muscle‘ as is commonly believed, but rather the surrounding connective tissues and fascia, also known as dense irregular connective tissue. A muscle, after all, is simply made up of contractile proteins and the innervating neural tissues, surrounded and encased in fascia and connective tissue. In fact, fascia surrounds and connects every muscle, even the tiniest myofibril and every single organ in the body forming full-body continuity. This concept is now frequently sited in the literature discussing the application of manual care.
Many soft-tissue treatment techniques now claim to be focused on targeting fascia. However consider if, as mentioned above, injury leads to an increased neural drive to the muscles and a decrease in the stretch reflex threshold, then the various techniques claiming to lengthen the tissue during their application never really achieve a complete range of motion. They will then fail to completely release the fascial tension involved in the patient’s dysfunction as the muscles which provide a ‘barrier’ prevent movement into the end range.
Utilizing the trademarked PAIL’s (Progressive Angular Isometric Loading™) technique, Functional Range Release™ system of soft-tissue treatmentallows the practitioner to immediately reduce the patient’s stretch threshold, allowing the further release of restrictive fibrosis present in the tissues. In addition, due to the ‘isometric’ contraction component of PAILS™, the treatment technique is simultaneously beginning the rehabilitation process by working on muscle contraction, activation, and endurance in the outer ranges of motion, leading to an expansion of the patient’s functional range of motion. Functional Range Release™ treatment therefore allows a more complete tissue release.