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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.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 13, 2013 7:54 pm

    How is this different from PNF stretching?

    • June 13, 2013 8:08 pm

      The Functional Range Release (FR)® technique is an entire system of assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation. The P.A.I.L’s technique (Progressive Angular Isometric Loading) is only a single component of the system as a whole and while it bears resemblance to PNF it differs in several ways:

      – PAILs concentrates not on simply expanding the range of motion via reciprocal inhibition (which has long been proven to be false btw), but more on the development of lasting strength in newly acquired ranges.
      – The application of ‘contraction’ followed by ‘relaxation’ is different in terms of contraction time and/or intensity
      – the PAILs system is coupled with the RAILs system (Regressive Angular Isometric Loading) and thus teaches the nervous system how to control both long and short ranges
      – it is not only applies at the end range…rather, it is used to induce progressive adaptation of connective tissues at various angles

      This is by no means an exhaustive list. Best thing to do is ask an FR® practitioner who has taken the seminars and is well versed in PAILs procedures…or FRC trainers who use the concept for mobility development.

      thanks for the question Phillippa

  2. Jimmy permalink
    August 24, 2013 11:11 pm


    Could you cite some articles regarding reciprocal inhibition being false? Thanks

    • August 25, 2013 2:00 am

      1. Moore MA, Hutton RS. Electromyographic investigation of muscle stretching techniques. Med Sci Sports Exercise 1980;12:322-9.
      2. Magnusson SP, Simonsen EB, Aagaard P, Dyhre-Poulsen P, McHugh MP, Kjaer M. Mechanical and physiological responses to stretching with and without preisometric contraction in human skeletal muscle. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1996;77:373-8.
      3. Markos PD. Ipsilateral and contralateral effects of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation techniques on hip motion and electromyographic activity. Phys Ther 1979;59:1366-73.
      4. Osternig LR, Robertson R, Troxel R, Hansen P. Muscle activation during proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching techniques. Am J Phys Med 1987;66:298-307.
      5. Halbertsma JPK, Goeken LNH. Stretching exercises: Effect on passive extensibility and stiffness in short hamstrings of health subjects. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1994;75:976-81.

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