Stretches are an important component of repetitive strain recovery and prevention. With computer and desk work tasks, certain muscles become tight (such as the chest muscles) and others lengthen and become weak (such as the mid-back muscles). This imbalance leads to rounded shoulders and a forward head posture - a posture that increases the risk of injury. Postural imbalance can also cause restrictions in the body's fascia, the spider web-like tissue that surrounds, supports and binds all the body's tissues from head to toe. These localized areas of restriction can lead to pain and dysfunction throughout the body as they cause stress and tension throughout the fascia.
Jill Stedronsky Morton and Brenda Pardy are two occupational therapists practicing in Denver, Colorado. They have recently published the book "Myofascial Stretching: A Guide to Self-Treatment". One goal of this book is to provide a resource "for the lay person who has chronic pain, muscular tightness and/or postural dysfunction."
In their individual prefaces, both therapists describe their own injuries and recovery. Myofascial release treatment and stretches played an integral role in their recovery. Having personally achieved recovery from such treatments, both therapists pursued training and now practice myofascial techniques in their clinic. Throughout the book, their experience and belief in the use of these techniques comes through. The authors emphasize the importance of holding gentle stretches, increasing awareness of the stretching sensation, listening to feedback from the body, and stretching consistently throughout the day - all concepts that help in the injury recovery process.
According to the authors, myofascial stretching "is a self treatment technique that results in permanent lengthening of the body's connective tissue and has the capacity to dramatically improve health and quality of life." The book "Myofascial Stretching" is a 50-page pictorial of stretches covering all body parts from the neck & jaw to the lower leg. In addition to the twelve sections relating to different parts of the body, their "Stretching Guide" gives a starting point for specific injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, hand pain, hip pain, sciatica, jaw tension and stress/tension related problems.
As the fascial system within the body is a global connective tissue that binds and connects all tissues, the stretches that the authors assign treat the body as a whole rather than looking at specific body parts. The authors do a good job in their introduction and list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) of describing the fascial tissue, the restrictions within it that can lead to pain and dysfunction, how to achieve a release of the tension, and what that release can actually feel like.
Instruction is provided in two styles of stretching - using a 4 inch ball for sustained pressure and using active elongation into restrictions. Brief narratives describe the stretches. Helpful tips and reminders on technique and stretching principles are provided throughout the book in text boxes. The black-and-white pictures are crisp and clean.
All in all, "Myofascial Stretching: A Guide to Self-Treatment", is a well-organized and easy-to-follow stretching resource that takes the concept of traditional stretches one-step further. For those suffering from chronic pain, or at risk of repetitive injury because of postural imbalance, "Myofascial Stretching: A Guide to Self-Treatment" would be a highly recommended resource that addresses the stretching component of injury recovery.
For more information or to order the book "Myofascial Stretching: A Guide to Self-Treatment" visit Denver Myofascial Release.
Other Useful Stretching Tools Available from Amazon.com
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.