As a massage therapist, you may find that assisted stretching is an excellent technique to add to your business because it addresses a need your clients have.
Helping others stretch out their muscles can bring in new clients, increase your business’s popularity, and relieve some of the strain you’re feeling from your current workload. More and more people are seeking out assisted stretching as they hear of its benefits. The result is a proliferation of stretching studios across the United States with catchy brand names like StretchLab, Stretchzone, LYMBR, and Stretch*d. This has just recently become commonplace. Don’t lose business to studios that offer one-on-one stretching sessions in addition to traditional services like yoga and pilates. Since you already have the training and experience to work with clients, as a massage therapist you are in an ideal position to either add stretching sessions into your existing business or provide stretching as a standalone service.
Though there has been recent interest in assisted stretching, certain variations of the practise date back decades. Here we take a look at a number of well-established forms of assisted stretching taught by providers who have been granted approval by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork: Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, Active Isolated Stretching, Stretch Therapy, Dynamic Body Stretching, and Fascial Stretch Therapy. This article will describe the advantages of stretching, how you may add this method into a massage session, and how you can promote a stretching approach to clients. We will also explore aided stretching programmes offered by massage-delivery and franchise massage clinics. Go, then!
Just what is “Assisted Stretching”?
Stretching with the aid of another person is called assisted stretching. It has a long history of application in athletic training facilities and has just recently made its way into publicly accessible fitness centres, spas, and stretch studios.
Through the application of targeted techniques, assisted stretching can help a muscle or muscle group become more mobile and flexible. Massage therapists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, and sports trainers are the professionals most likely to perform this service, as it needs extensive knowledge of human kinetics. Because it is a low-intensity approach, assisted stretching is appropriate for a wide range of clients, including young children, adults, the elderly, and people with mobility issues.
An in-depth examination of the patient’s physical condition is par for the course during a regular session. During a session, a therapist will assess the patient’s mobility, flexibility, limits, posture, and degree of pain or discomfort. Moreover, they will think about the client’s desired outcomes and create a personalised stretching programme to help them get there.
When working with a professional stretch therapist, a client is able to safely and effectively extend further into a stretch without risking harm. Each session is tailored to the individual client and serves to supplement their existing wellness regimen. Clients who receive regular stretching sessions generally report improved posture, decreased discomfort, lessened tension, increased energy, and an overall sense of well-being.
The Advantages of Stretching
When it comes to taking care of your body, stretching is a must. Reduces stress, which is beneficial to the body as a whole and specifically to the health of the joints and muscles. Many studies have shown that people who were formerly considered stiff and inflexible now enjoy the benefits of fluid movement and improved posture.
Stretching has numerous benefits, including those related to mobility and flexibility, blood flow, posture, mental health, and physical discomfort. In this article, we will examine each of these advantages in turn.
The ability to move more freely and with greater ease. Motion capacity and adaptability are interdependent qualities. Flexibility and mobility of the joints and the muscles that support them increase with increased range of motion. The length of the muscles around a joint and their range of motion both expand with static stretching, according to the research. For example, in 2012, the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy published an article titled “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation.”
It has been suggested that a person’s tolerance for stretching, rather than the length of the muscle, determines how far they are able to go when they stretch. Range of motion is positively impacted in both circumstances, and its enhancement promotes enhanced mobility and injury avoidance. Joint stiffness can also be alleviated by stretching. easing the strain on the body during motions like walking or doing other physical work.
Even while scientists have studied the benefits of stretching, there is no universal agreement on what those benefits are.
There were 101 studies analysed for “Current Concepts in Muscle Stretching for Exercise and Rehabilitation,” and the authors found:
Researchers have shown that stretching is an important aspect of an overall exercise regimen for older persons. Because stretching programmes are frequently mixed with strengthening, balancing, and cardiovascular activities, it is difficult to isolate the benefit of stretching, therefore it is unclear what dose yields the best results in older persons.
Holding a static stretch for 60 seconds was related with larger increases in hamstring flexibility in older individuals compared to improvements in flexibility seen with shorter length holds. Spinal mobility (total flexion and extension range of motion) in the elderly was improved after 10 weeks of static stretching of the trunk muscles. Walking in the elderly may also benefit from static hip flexor and extensor stretching.
In addition, “the effectiveness of kind of stretching appears to be connected to age and sex: men and older individuals under 65 years of age respond better to contract-relax stretching, while women and older adults over 65 benefit more from static stretching.”
However, we may assume that stretching prior to a massage will assist the client feel more flexible and at ease.
Higher blood flow. Regular, low-intensity stretching can improve tissue blood flow and lower blood pressure. Muscle discomfort is mitigated in part by the increased blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles.
Taller and more confident. If you stretch your customers properly, they will feel like they have more energy and appear more confident. The practise of stretching the muscles, followed by an exercise regimen designed to strengthen them, promotes excellent posture by helping the body assume its correct anatomical position.
A hunched back is the result of a curve in the upper back, caused by tight pectorals or anterior deltoids, for example, which pull the shoulders forward. A client’s posture can be greatly improved or corrected by extending those muscles and strengthening the antagonist muscles.
Reducing tension. As a result of mental and emotional causes, everyone has felt physical stress. When we’re under pressure, our muscles tighten and contract. Muscles tighten up as stress accumulates in the body.
By gradually widening the muscular fibres, stretching helps reduce stress. Do you really need to stretch?,” Michael Jonesco, an assistant clinical professor of sports medicine and internal medicine at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said, “Our muscles are made of thousands of muscle spindles — like hairs in a ponytail — that give the muscle cell the ability to stretch and contract by sliding past each other in a coordinated fashion.” What the science says,” the Chicago Tribune wrote in 2018.
The parasympathetic nervous system, which is activated during stretching, causes the release of endorphins. Many people report that stretching helps them feel more relaxed and gives them a more focused mind.
Comfort from suffering. Athletes and rehabilitation facilities have long relied on stretching to treat the pain of everything from sports injuries to auto accidents. Pain, decreased mobility, and increased stiffness and achiness are all symptoms of restricted movement. It has been discovered that stretching can mitigate these side effects.
Exercising regularly with a focus on stretching and strengthening has been shown to alleviate pain and boost joint and muscle function. (For instance, see the 2017 article “Effects of a stretching routine for the pectoralis minor on muscle length, function, and scapular kinematics in patients with and without shoulder discomfort” in the Journal of Hand Therapy.)
Let’s take a look at some of the tried and true stretches that masseuses might incorporate into their repertoire.
Neuromuscular facilitation of proprioception
Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) involves passively extending a muscle while performing an isometric stretch to improve mobility and flexibility. This approach is most effective when used after a warm-up and adheres to a strict protocol of contract-relax-stretch and hold times.
Instructor at the Bancroft School of Massage Therapy in Worcester, Massachusetts, and Licensed Massage Therapist Jeff Myers provided additional context for the method.
He said that PNF was a form of stretching that utilised a combination of passive and isometric stretches to stimulate proprioceptors and speed up the neuromuscular system. Stretching with PNF “just puts the neurological system into relaxing the myotactic reflex,” or the muscular contraction in reaction to stretching, allowing the targeted muscle to extend further than with more conventional techniques of stretching.
Myers explained that during a massage, the therapist will passively stretch the targeted muscle to its comfortable end range while providing resistance to contraction. The client only makes use of about a quarter of their total strength. Ten to fifteen seconds into the stretch, the client breathes deeply as the therapist maintains the position. Typically, this would be done three times.
During the mid-1940s in the United States, PNF was created by Dr. Herman Kabat and Dr. Maggie Knotts. It is a standard part of many certification or training programmes that focus on sports massage.
The International PNF Association is a great resource for anyone interested in PNF.
Stretching With Isolated Movements
During Active Isolated Stretching, a stretch is held for no more than two seconds before being released and repeated. To achieve this, we tighten the antagonistic muscle and loosen the targeted one.
Active isolated stretching is a technique that has been refined over the course of forty years by licenced massage therapist and author Aaron Mattes (his book is titled Active Isolated Stretching: The Mattes Method). He grounded it on Sherrington’s Law, which asserts that when one muscle contracts, the opposing one will relax. “Lengthen and strengthen” is the mantra of his system.
According to Mattes, Active Isolated Stretching improves the function of the brain’s receptors because it enhances flexibility, range of motion, blood flow, oxygen, nutrients, and hydration to cells.
Mattes told MASSAGE Magazine, “This is a tremendous application of the body’s physiology, and it’s done softly.” Holding a stretch for more than two seconds engaged the stretch reflex, which led us to conclude that “if you’re holding it longer, then you end up with a fight-or-flight situation where muscles that you were trying to stretch by holding longer are contracting to protect themselves.”
Active Isolated Stretching is explained in detail at Stretching USA.
Aaron Mattes created active Isolated Stretching, and he demonstrates it here on a young client. In order to improve the range of motion and flexibility of a single muscle or a set of muscles, a technique known as active isolated stretching is employed. With thanks to Stretching USA
If you’re looking for the cutting edge in aided stretching, go no further than Pliability StretchTM. Muscle pliability, or the capacity of muscles to remain long, soft, and primed for movement, is addressed by this moderate stretching technique that is often overlooked in training routines.
Prior to beginning the Pliability Stretch technique, the massage therapist will use a patented evaluation called Flex IQTM to determine the patient’s specific needs. As a result of this data, the therapist can adjust the stretching exercises accordingly.
While the patient stretches and relaxes, the therapist uses light pressure in order to lengthen and soften the muscles. This boosts oxygenated blood flow and immediate anti-inflammatory actions.
The Pliability Stretch approach reinforces the neuromuscular connection between the brain and body, which tells muscles to remain flexible, through regular practise. Long, supple muscles are better able to distribute the forces they experience in sports and daily life than their shorter, denser counterparts. Consequently, patients are able to train and carry out routine tasks with reduced risk of injury and discomfort.
Mara Kimowitz invented Pliability Stretch in 2017. The Pliability Stretch course offers certification in the technique for health and fitness professionals. Level 1 is the entry point, followed by Level 2 (Corrective Exercise Specialist), and Level 3 (Medical Specialist).
Professionals operating at this level are qualified to aid people of various skill levels, including those coping with life-threatening illnesses. As long as they maintain their membership in the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, massage therapists are able to earn CEUs for their profession (NCBTMB).
Pliability Stretch is a great way to educate yourself on the subject.
The components of Stretch Therapy are mobilisation, fascial remodelling, strengthening, neurological re-patterning, and relaxation. Arizona-based licenced Stretch Therapy instructor Judy Stowers, LMT, created it. Stretch Therapy draws on a number of different stretching modalities, most notably Kit Laughlin’s mind-body holistic approach to stretching.
To facilitate stretching, therapists use mats on the floor rather than tables. To help his customers learn what it’s like to stretch on their own, Stowers evaluates their individual needs and then creates a customised stretching regimen. Once they have mastered the proper form and positioning, she sends them on their merry way to stretching in the comfort of their own homes.
The key, according to Stowers, is teaching people “how they can experience those feelings in their body, [and] how to do the stretch safely and effectively,” which will lead to “a pattern and habit of stretching on their own,” and thus a healthier and more productive existence.
Apex Bodyworx is a great resource for learning about Stretch Therapy.
Stretch Therapy was created by massage therapist Judy Stowers, who now instructs both clients and other therapists. The components of Stretch Therapy are mobilisation, fascial remodelling, strengthening, neurological re-patterning, and relaxation.
Stretching the Body Dynamically
Twenty years ago, when fitness expert Loretta McGrath was just starting out, she found that her clients were more interested in stretching than in personal training.
To help her clients increase their mobility, flexibility, and strength, she developed the Dynamic Body Stretching method, an active isolated stretching technique that features simple stretching sequences. Body Alignment for Life, written by McGrath, is another of his works.
McGrath’s software helps evaluate a client’s mobility and adaptability during his Dynamic Body Stretching technique. The report provides a graphic depiction of the weak or unbalanced muscles, the sports that may be affected, and the locations at high risk for injury for the therapist.
As McGrath put it, “creating a correction programme requires a thorough understanding of your client’s physical health.” To get the scores to register, we perform passive and active stretches across the whole range of motion. Then, once we have all the information, we can use our expertise to help them address their inequalities.
Do Dynamic Body Stretching to learn more about it.
Dynamic Body Stretching was developed by Loretta McGrath, who demonstrates the method. McGrath’s software helps complement the Dynamic Body Stretching approach by measuring a client’s flexibility and range of motion.
The creator of Dynamic Body Stretching, Loretta McGrath, demonstrates the method. McGrath’s software helps complement the Dynamic Body Stretching approach by measuring a client’s flexibility and range of motion.
Therapeutic Stretching for Tight Muscles and Other Connective Tissue
In order to help those in need of a good stretch and other health benefits, the Fascial Stretch Therapy program at the Stretch to Win Institute relies on four pillars:
For starters, it’s a traction-based method that helps loosen up your joints before stretching them out;
Core-outward stretching is the foundation of this practise.
• Its motion is soft, fluid, and rhythmic;
• Neither the patient nor the provider should feel any discomfort.
According to Ann Frederick, who co-founded the Stretch to Win Institute in Chandler, Arizona with her physical therapist husband Chris Frederick, the latter of whom also addressed joint decompression as part of their aided stretching technique. By physically transporting their body, we are able to make interplanetary travel possible for them. Unlike the more localised and indirect myofascial movement, this one is more expansive. Now, our operations are more worldwide in scope. We’re shifting over several anatomical planes at once,” Ann Frederick explained.
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