FST, or Fascial Stretch Therapy, is a unique way to stretch the body using a series of pain-free mobilizations in conjunction with the myofascial meridians. Developed by Ann and Chris Frederick in Tempe, Arizona, FST has been used by elite athletes around the globe including the most recent 2016 Olympic Games. More information can be found on their website www.stretchtowin.com.
How does FST differ from massage? Well for starters, it’s performed with clothes on. This helps to maneuver the body around with greater ease and effectiveness without having to worry about draping. FST also utilizes leg straps which anchors one leg down allowing for the opposite leg to be moved through its full ranges of motion without the feeling of falling off of the table. What really sets Fascial Stretch Therapy apart from traditional Swedish or Deep Tissue massage is how it uses the clients’ own body to massage itself from the inside out. When performing FST stretches, a mild traction is used to produce a gapping in the joint. This slight increase in space allows for deep fascial restrictions to become free, increased circulation to occur, and a scouring of the joint capsule. Don’t run away from the word scour as that is where the magic of FST lies. By accessing and mobilizing the joint space in 360 degrees, fascial restrictions that have inhibited movement and performance and a pain-free life can be eliminated. The combination of traction and joint mobilization with movement can release areas of the body that haven’t been released with other movement practices like yoga. Even though FST differs from massage, they both go hand-in-hand by offering various strategies for freeing restrictions and enhancing movement.
How does FST differ from regular stretching? The easiest comparison between FST and traditional stretching can be illustrated with the hamstrings. Instead of holding a static hamstring stretch for 30 seconds, with FST the entire posterior chain will be stretched from the bottom of the foot to the hip and into the spine. This is accomplished with traction, so a light and slow pulling of the joint capsule which is comprised of fascia. The hamstring is then tensioned from its attachment point and becomes a multi-joint stretch by leveraging the ankle joint. By involving the calf, which interlocks with the hamstring, the entire fascial network can be re-balanced.
As an LMT and FST practitioner, I use FST to assess while simultaneously treating and learning about someone’s body. It’s my favorite way to get a sense of where someone is holding tension while comparing right to left sides. I often combine Thai massage and Tuina techniques with a series of FST stretches to quickly assess and treat muscle, fascia, and joint restrictions. It’s a great tool to use for seeing the big picture before dialing in to specific areas that may need more attention.
So who can benefit from FST? Those who tend to hold tension in their connective tissues. This represents as joint stiffness, hip and low back tension, and a feeling of whole-body tightness, fatigue, or body imbalance. Active populations such as recreational athletes, weekend warriors, elite athletes are a good fit for FST. The aging population who desire to keep moving and slow the process of stiffening connective tissue are also an excellent fit. And the best part about FST is that it’s such a powerful way to open the body, results last. When I first received FST, I was in grad school sitting in class 40+ hours per week, and my flexibility never regressed. After 2 treatments, my deep squat improved and I could hold my spine more erect with my clean and jerk. Since FST works to re-balance the entire fascial net, unless you have a specific connective tissue disorder or are a complete couch potato, the results will last! After an initial FST visit, I typically sell a package of 4 60-minute sessions which can be 1x a week or spread out depending on the person and their goals. Some clients choose to re-visit once a month for a maintenance session to re-tune and re-balance any areas that have been overworked.