Part 1: A Review of Fascial Stretch Therapy for Athletic Recovery In Runners

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Fascial Stretch Therapy, otherwise known as FST, is a partner assisted stretching technique developed by Ann and Chris Frederick at the Stretch to Win Institute of Fascial Stretch Therapy. Founded in 1999, FST was designed for athletes, but is also effective and beneficial for people of all ages and activity levels.

What is fascia?

Fascia is the connective tissue that permeates and envelops all structures of the body, essentially connecting them all together in one web like matrix.  Fascia extends from head to toe, front to back, inside to outside without interruption and is the most influential factor affecting your mobility, tissue extensibility and optimal joint range of motion.

In a normal, healthy state the fascial system maintains the body in a delicate balance of tension and elasticity.  With the proper amount of tension, fascia helps support the efficient alignment of your bones while being elastic enough to permit full, unrestricted movement. Without the wonderful world of fascia, we would literally just be a pile of bones on the floor.

Unhealthy fascia?

Faulty movement patterns, poor postural habits, dehydration, stress form aging, over training; can all have a disastrous affect on this system, causing it to shorten, thicken and tighten (like “shrink-wrap”). Over time, the accumulation of these restrictions begins exerting abnormal pressure on joints, nerves, blood vessels and even organs and can create pain in seemingly unrelated areas of your body. It can create adhesions, contractures, stiff tissue.

Furthermore, compensation in any area of the body can increase the sympathetic tone and inflammatory response. This can lead to poor performance, poor sleep, pain and unhealthy movement.

What does this mean for you, as an athlete?

At some point in an athlete’s career he/she will experience some form of discomfort or injury. The human structure is complex and the best approach we can take is one rooted in prevention and optimal recovery. Managing stress, recovery and hydration are key elements in the success of any athlete and their performance; which is why FST can be a benefit to any athlete’s program.

Stress Management – Physical activity is associated with an improved quality of life; therefore moving well and pain free directly results to improved performance. Stress can be positive or negative, and our central nervous system cannot differentiate between mental or physical stress. FST can help reduce an athlete’s stress response and improve parasympathetic activity to encourage mental clarity and mental fortitude leading up to the main event. 

Recovery – Running injuries can be related to poor running technique, as well as poor elastic bounce or rebound.; which can result in micro trauma from overuse. Studies show that the majority of running injuries is caused by miro-trauma to collagenous tissues (Elliott, 1990) (Stanish, 1984).

Hydration – Approximately two thirds of the volume of fascial tissues is made up of water. During application of mechanical load, whether by stretching or local compression, water is pushed out of the more stressed zones, similar to squeezing a sponge (Schleip et al., 2012).


What does an FST session look like?

Fascial Stretch Therapy™ (FST) is assisted stretching performed on a specially designed treatment table; which comes equipped with comfortable padded straps that aim to stabilize the parts of the body not being worked on.  It can be performed exclusively or in combination with a massage treatment or after a corrective exercise session.

As an athlete, I cycle structural integration (KMI) at least once every couple of months and add FST as part of my taper program 1-2 weeks prior to my main event.

On Sunday, I will be running in the Scotiabank Half Marathon, as part of the Pain BC Charity Challenge team, with a hope of a personal best.

Matthew Keen, owner of Keensense Personal Training and Fascial Stretch Therapy has been my go to FST guru for the past several months and I have noticed a great deal of difference in my tissue. Leading up to this event, I have had a chronic anteriorly rotated right hip; which causes the hamstring point of insertion to be painful and tender, with resonating tension down the entire back line, into the plantar fascia.

Our sessions resemble a fluidly choreographed dance between the therapist and client working with your breath to ease into a gradual series of gentle, but deep stretching patterns. The experience is relaxing and pain-free and for me, was more like a movement meditation. Matt’s ability to map out the body and see the spiral patterns that are unseen by my eyes also offers me a deeper perspective on how I am holding my tension.

What are the benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy?

  • Improved Flexibility and Mobility.
  • Improved Overall Range of Motion.
  • Restoration of normal joint space, posture and tissue alignment
  • Improved Circulation and Oxidation to the tissues and systems.
  • Improved Energy through increased parasympathetic tone.
  • Increased Muscle Activation and Relaxation.
  • Improved Physical and Emotional Well-Being.
  • Improved Muscle, Joint and Nerve Function.
  • Decrease Pain and reduced stiffness in hypertonic tissues.
  • Decrease Compression and Pinching in Joints and Nerves.

Next week I will offer a post event review of my next session with Matt Keen, and how FST can influence recovery post your main event.


Keensense Personal Training and Fascial Stretch Therapy

Stretch To Win

“Fascia In Sport and Movement” by Robert Schleip et al.

About the Author: Sarah Jamieson

Sarah Jamieson has written 155 posts on this site.

Sarah is the owner and head movement coach at Moveolution; a Vancouver based consulting company focused on the integration of movement and recovery science. Bridging the gaps between the clinical and performance fields Sarah’s passion stems from lifelong passion of Yoga, Jujitsu, and Qi Gong; which she integrates into her coaching practice. She is a full time social change maker, a ‘run-a-muker’ of everything outdoors and repeatedly engages in random acts of compassion.

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