Physical Therapy Treatment Soft Tissue Mobilization
Before we dive into soft tissue mobilization, it’s important to learn what exactly soft tissue is. The human body is made up of many tissues, these are groups of cells that have similar structures and that function together as a unit. In between the tissues in a nonliving material called the intercellular matrix and it fills the spaces up between the cells. When we experience injuries, the injury can be to the soft tissue or hard tissue in our bodies. Hard tissue includes bones and teeth, typically characterized by tissue cells that are hardened by ossification or calcification (bones and teeth undergo these processes). Soft tissue, on the other hand, connects and supports the surrounding structures and organs of the body. Soft tissue includes skin, fat, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, etc.
Soft tissue mobilization (STM) is a type of manual therapy used in order to break up rigid muscle tissue, alleviate muscle tension, and move the fluids that are stuck in the tissues which causes pain and inflammation. STM encompasses many different types of techniques. When soft tissue is damaged/injured, the body repairs the damage through a long process of inflammation. This process can lead to long strands of scar tissue also known as adhesions. These adhesions tend to pull against each other as you move which creates pain trigger points. In this manual therapy technique, the therapist will manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues in the body utilizing their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows, etc in specific ways in order to reduce pain and restore proper functionality.
The most common soft tissues that are injured are muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These can be injured through sports, exercise, and even everyday activities. The most common types of soft tissue injuries are sprains, strains, contusions, tendonitis, bursitis, and stress injuries. Examples of a few specific soft tissue mobilization techniques include:
Sustained pressure: PT pushes directly on the targeted tissue and holds
Unlocking spiral: PT pushes the targeted tissue in clockwise and counterclockwise motions
Perpendicular mobilization: PT pushes the targeted tissue in right angles
Benefits of soft tissue mobilization are plentiful. It aids in the breaking down of adhesions, improving the range of motion, reducing swelling, decreasing pain, and restoring functionality. Anyone from young children to seniors can benefit with soft tissue mobilization. After the initial appointment and evaluation conducted by the therapist, soft tissue mobilization may be a part of your healing process if deemed necessary!