Thursday, 4 May 2017

Stretching and the role of fascia

I'm working my way through Fascia in Sport and Movement, edited by Robert Schleip, reading the chapter on fascia as sensory organ. Fascia is a fascinating subject. It is an intricate and historically overlooked anatomical and physiological feature. These days there is more and more research being undertaken to explore the nature and function of what appears to be the largest sensory organ of the body (p31). I'm just reflecting on this paragraph:
Stimulation of the Golgi receptors tends to trigger a relaxation response in skeletal muscle fibres that are directly linked with the respectively tensioned collagen fibres. However, if tendinous extramuscular are stretched in a condition in which they are arranged in series with relaxed muscle fibres, then most of the elongation will be 'swallowed' by the more compliant myofibres. In this way, the respective stretching impulse may not provide sufficient stimulation for eliciting any muscular tonus change (Jami, 1992). A practical conclusion may be that a stretching impulse, aimed at reaching the tendinous tissues, may profit from including some moments in which the lengthened muscle fibres are actively contracting or temporarily resisting their overall elongation. (p33)
My first thought was isn't this what we do when we apply MET or PNF? In both those approaches to stretching we use the Golgi Tendon Organs to elicit a relaxation phase in the target muscle by contracting it against a resistance and 'turning off' the muscle spindles. But maybe this also explains why, having stretched a muscle it can quickly return to its shortened state. Perhaps it is simply not enough to target the compliant fibres, needing in addition to target those less compliant fibres. I don't know, and it definitely needs more thought. There are many other possible reasons why, after applying all our techniques and skills, some tissue simply refuses to respond as we would like. But it does look like a deeper understanding of an appreciation for the role of fascia could open up a whole new world of possibilities!

One of those possibilities that came to mind was to experiment with stretching by adding a small degree of stretch during the contraction phase. It's just a wild idea at the moment, and may prove totally fruitless. Even as I think about it, I wonder how you could do this in practice-stretch an already contracting muscle. I shall have to experiment on myself!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

A germ of an idea

Okay, so as you know I'm off to the London Marathon tomorrow (Sunday 23rd April). It's my second year working with Against Breast Cancer, and as I said in the previous post, it's quite a small group of runners. And that got me thinking.

How many smaller charities have runners, maybe only one or two, raising money for them at this year's event? I don't know the answer to that question, I'm guessing someone, somewhere does, but it's not me. I'm pretty sure that although there might be a welcoming committee to cheer these runners home, I'm not sure how many will get the good bags and an offer of a post-event massage at the end of their 26 mile run.

So what if we got together and provided that service for a group of charities? Under some sort of collective banner a small team of 6 or 8 therapists could probably treat 100+ runners that might otherwise not get the opportunity.

I'm not sure how to organise something like that, but if a group of charities worked together I'm sure we could get a big enough marquee sorted. It's worth some thought.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Why I work for nothing

On the 23rd April 2017 I will once again be dragging my massage couch through St James Park to set up in a gazebo and prepare to treat a group of charity runners at the London Marathon. I've done this for the last 5 years and always as an unpaid volunteer.

Each year I see offers of 'paid work' but for me it's become somehow important that I give up my time for free. Each runner I treat has put themselves through some sort of training programme that has resulted in them just having run 26 miles. It might have taken them anything from 4 to 6 hours to complete the course. They've done it to raise money, often for a cause close to their hearts because of family loss or circumstances or experience.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with people getting paid to do what I choose to do for free. It is, after all, my choice. It doesn't make me or them better. It's a choice. I do get a bit annoyed when I discover that having volunteered some pull out of the volunteer role because a paid role has come along. That leaves the charity looking for volunteers in the difficult position of casting around for last minute replacements, and quite frankly I find that unacceptable.

This year I'm working with Against Breast Cancer again. We'll be somewhere in St James Park and I'm not sure how many runners they have in this year's event and how many will come for a post-event massage, but we'll be there, ready and waiting.

And if your chosen charity hasn't got post-event massage available and you fancy a 10 minute rub-down, then why not come and find me and I'll see what I can do.