What is Soft Tissue Therapy?

Donn Saylor

Soft tissue therapy is the treatment of pain and injuries relating to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissues of the body. It is most closely identified with relieving discomfort within the neuromusculoskeletal system. There are a variety of soft tissue treatment options available, including physical therapy, massage therapy, and manipulative therapy.

Massage is one type of soft tissue therapy.
Massage is one type of soft tissue therapy.

Before a patient undergoes any kind of soft tissue therapy, a health care provider will perform a complete assessment to get a clear picture of the problem areas. The patient will offer the provider a detailed list of symptoms, and the provider will utilize this information to gather the cause and source of the pain. If necessary, the provider may conduct a series of tests that can help him or her gain further insight into the issue. These tests might include movement exercises or posture evaluations.

Physical therapy helps strengthen injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Physical therapy helps strengthen injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

Massage is one of the most widely utilized treatment modalities in soft tissue therapy. Massage techniques include the application of gentle, sustained pressure to the afflicted area. This is intended to reduce inflammation, lessen swelling, and alleviate pain. In general, patients respond well to this type of soft tissue therapy.

The trigger point technique is closely related to massage and serves as an excellent form of soft tissue therapy. Trigger point therapy is a style of bodywork that uses the hands to exert pressure on specific points in the body that trigger soft tissue pain. These triggers are highly sensitive, and trigger point therapy is known to be a painful process. It has been shown, however, to greatly reduce or eliminate chronic pain.

Myofascial therapy is another commonly used treatment method. Through the movement of knuckles, elbows, or special instruments, professionals work on the distressed area of a patient's fascia, the soft tissue element in all connective tissue. Myofascial therapy improves circulation and promotes the natural stretching movement of the body's muscle, which helps in facilitating a patient's recovery.

Some medical professionals advise a structured program of stretching as the key component to soft tissue therapy. There are a variety of stretching techniques advised by experts that gently work out the kinks in the aggravated soft tissue. These types of stretches should not be painful and should provide noticeable relief from discomfort.

Tapping may also be utilized by a health care provider to initiate the body's innate healing processes. The therapeutic tapping of soft tissue promotes lymphatic drainage and jump-starts the recovery process. Tapping also initiates blood flow, re-energizing the painful areas.

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