Soft tissue release (STR) is a hands-on manual therapy technique used to assess and treat the tissue of the body. The soft tissues of the body (muscle, tendon, fascia and ligaments) are prone to acute and chronic injury, which leads to swelling, adhesions and fibrosis (scarring) of the tissue. This type of injury often results in pain, loss of mobility, strength, and function. Soft tissue release targets specific areas of tension within an individual muscle with the aim of removing scar tissue and adhesion to relieve muscular tension and pain.
Soft tissue release can be performed by physiotherapists, massage therapists, chiropractors and athletic therapists. The technique involves performing a precise stretch on a certain muscle through multiple planes of movement. The therapist identifies the area of tension through palpation and this area becomes the target for stretching.
How Soft Tissue Release Works
First, the therapist applies one hand at one end of the muscle to ‘lock’ or ‘fix’ that part of the muscle to the underlying structures[i]. Then the therapist applies deep pressure with the other hand or massage tool typically using lotion or oil to ease the friction of the movement.
The muscle is actively or passively stretched throughout the technique. Soft tissue release works by breaking down these muscle adhesions and improving blood flow to the area to re-establish optimal length, resilience, and function of the muscles.
Soft tissue release can be used on both acute and chronic injuries with relatively quick results. It can be beneficial for clients with any level of activity and mobility to treat pain and dysfunction. While soft tissue release can be beneficial in treating many musculoskeletal conditions, it should be used in conjunction with other treatment approaches to ensure a reduction and/or elimination of symptoms.