Feeling tight or stiff? Having some trouble moving around?
Soft tissue mobilization might be the answer.
One of the tools used by physical therapists at ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio in Peachtree City, soft tissue mobilization is used to break up inflexible muscle tissue and relax tension in those muscles. It can also help alleviate pain and inflammation. “It is the idea of improving circulation and improving tissue mobility,” said ProHealth’s Karyn Staples, PT, PhD, NCPT. “Things can happen where muscles get stiff, areas get tense, and that limits the good mobility and movement and function of a joint. That stiffness then can create pain and poor movement patterns. Stiffness can also be because of postures that people develop. It’s a technique that we utilize physical therapy-wise to be able to help improve that for people.”
It is a technique that all trained physical therapists can perform. It is different from massage in that it is applied very specifically rather than an overall treatment of the entire body. “As a physical therapist is concerned, we’re looking at this based on a region of the body,” said Staples. “A massage therapist is looking at the whole body.”
Muscle strains and sprains are among the most frequent targets of soft tissue mobilization. In essence, it can be performed any place there is a muscle. It might be considered a passive form of rehab as far as the patient is concerned, because the physical therapist is doing all the work. But it is an important facet of an overall plan to get patients back to their normal movements with more quality and less pain. “There can be times it can be uncomfortable in the sense that we’re working on an area that might be tense, so there could be some soreness there,” said Staples. “But the idea of this technique is not to cause pain, it’s to improve the circulation and decrease pain. It shouldn’t be something that hurts.”
Some patients might say that it “hurts so good” in that it creates some initial soreness but breaks up the tension in the muscle and allows the blood to flow properly to provide healing and improved mobility. “Nothing should be lasting,” said Staples. “It should make things feel better, like we are moving forward.”
Neck pain is a common reason for soft tissue mobilization, perhaps the most common. A patient with neck pain has often overcompensated by altering his or her posture, and a great deal of tension has developed in the upper trapezius between the neck and shoulders. That tightness must first be lessened so that circulation can be improved and unhealthy posture modifications are decreased. Soft tissue mobilization can do that, leading to a more relaxed muscle region and better overall movement.
But it is only one component of the overall therapy session. In addition to providing muscle relief, attention is given to improving body mechanics and posture as well as directing the patient to continue exercising at home to maintain that newfound mobility. “We are trying to discover the root cause of the problem,” said Staples. “Then perhaps we can fix it, or at least manage it. If something like arthritis is already there, we aren’t going to fix that. But we can alter the mechanics in a way that the strain is lessened.”
In the same way that soft tissue mobilization is a portion of an overall physical therapy program, it is just one of the many services provided by ProHealth’s professional staff. ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio is located at 1777 Georgian Park in Peachtree City. To book an appointment, phone 770-487-1931.