What is Soft Tissue Therapy (STT)?
Soft tissue therapy (STT) is a therapy where injury to the soft tissue, pain and dysfunction of soft tissue injury chiefly of the neuromusculoskeletal system are assessed, treated, and managed. This therapy is practiced by certified health care professionals such as chiropractors, occupational therapists, massage therapists, physical therapists and some naturopathic and osteopathic doctors and physicians who provide manual therapy. Injuries such as repetitive strain injuries which are also termed as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) of the soft tissues are the chief reason for most of the disability and impairment.
Postural and Functional Assessments in Soft Tissue Therapy (STT)
Individuals who have a particular complaint(s) usually will have numerous assessments that give information regarding the status of their soft tissue. Depending on the signs and symptoms, these assessments are done with the aim of identifying the likely cause(s) of the pain/injury. These include assessments of posture, range of motion, biomechanics, and nervous system etc. Treatment of the pain or injury depends on the result of the assessments. There are many treatment techniques which can be used for achieving optimum results such as:
Manual Techniques in Soft Tissue Therapy (STT)
- Trigger Point techniques help in alleviating pain of myofascial trigger points.
- Myofascial therapy focuses on the muscle and fascial systems, enhances mobility and flexibility of the connective tissues. It also helps in breaking down fibrous adhesions and decreases the severity and sensitivity of scarring due to injury or surgery.
- Massage techniques, (Swedish massage) is also very beneficial in treatment. It helps in decreasing soft tissue swelling and/or inflammation.
- Cross friction massage generates heat, which in turn helps in breaking down adhesions in the fascial layers, muscles, and soft tissues. It also encourages healing, particularly in tendon pathologies.
- Soft tissue technique comprises of a chiropractor or therapist applying firm and direct pressure in order to relax the hypertonic muscles and stretch the taut fascial structures.
- Sustained pressure (ischemic/digital pressure) helps in alleviating hypertonic (tight) areas in the muscle and fascia.
- Active release technique, myofascial release and/or deep tissue massage are some other techniques which are a combination of the above listed techniques.
- All the above techniques are helpful in relieving aches, pain or injury. However, every time, a soft tissue technique will not be successful in alleviating a specific condition.
Stretching Treatment in Soft Tissue Therapy (STT)
- Static stretching helps in alleviating extremely hypertonic (tight) muscles.
- Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF) stretching helps in decreasing the tone of a muscle or a muscle group which is hypertonic (tight). It is also beneficial in treating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
- Muscle Energy Technique (M.E.T.) comprises of using extremely light muscular contractions in a specific direction. It helps in changing the joint restriction and improving the joint range of motion, by changing the length of the local musculature.
Exercise Treatment in Soft Tissue Therapy (STT)
Dysfunctional soft tissues are either extremely short and tight or extremely long and weak. Depending on the findings of assessment, it is advised to the patients to commence a series of exercises in order to strengthen or just “switch-on” a particular muscle or muscle groups.
Taping Treatment in Soft Tissue Therapy (STT)
Therapeutic taping or strapping techniques are often used by soft tissue practitioners and musculoskeletal specialists for relieving pressure on the swollen and injured soft tissue, changing patterns of the muscle firing or to give support during the healing process. These techniques are designed to improve the lymphatic fluid exchange and permit the body to go back to its natural healing process. Sports activities, repetitive strain injury (carpal tunnel syndrome) or over exertion causes injury to the soft tissue, muscles or tendons resulting in swelling which hinders the blood supply the injured area and slows down the healing process. Trained and professional musculoskeletal specialists help in relieving the pressure caused by the swollen tissue and improving blood circulation to the injured tissue and muscle mass with use of elastic taping.