As a tool I love Soft Tissue Release, (STR) but I found the application at times difficult when I stuck to the rules. But like most therapists I like to experiment and this is one of those situations that led me to think outside of the box.  The question was how could I achieve the same result but remove the difficulties.  

Some of the problems included not having enough hands to control the movement, so when I was faced with this situation I would ask my client to participate but that would result in them contracting the very muscle group I was targeting which made it difficult to sink in and achieve an effective lock.  

I also was having difficulty getting my head around the idea that by placing my thumb onto a very tight area of tissue tension and shortening the movement pattern I would soften or release the tension, firstly it was hard on my thumb, and if you are a hypermobile therapist you  should not ever by applying your technique in this manner, secondly if I had a large area of tension, and needed to do multiple applications would this not defeat the purpose, in most cases it was bruising the tissue which meant I was injuring it… not exactly the outcome I wanted to achieve.  

And what should I do with multipennate muscles, apply the technique in multiple directions.  I think you’re getting the picture.  I wanted an approach that could create more space, increase movement and not overwork the tissue.

The purpose of TSTR is to improve the tissue environment without causing undue stress, I have heard over and over again about how painful this technique can be from clients and therapists alike, while it is a strong technique it should not include pain, it should feel like the tissue is being given a good stretch without being beaten up.  

The beauty of this approach is it can be integrated into a massage, your flow is not broken and your client will remain more relaxed.  

The advantages to using Transverse STR

  • More control of muscle when there is a greater ROM for instance the shoulder girdle or pelvis
  • Useful when the depth of muscle is shallow as in the scapula
  • Can help prevent overstretching you work within the limits of incremental changes, easier for the body to adapt to the change
  • Can help to release tension or separate adhesions without overworking the tissue
  • Can be applied when there is no solid or supportive structure beneath the hands for example the abdominals
  • When the muscle fibres are multipennate or circular such the gluteus maximus or pectoralis major, it is extremely efficient and targets a greater area in a single movement
  • When there isn’t much movement or space available, it can be very specific
  • When there is too much movement and it is hard to control like the back muscles using a combination of transverse and resisted eliminates this problem
  • Useful when working with hypermobile or pregnant clients, you can target the very area that needs attention without overstretching a joint that is already at full ROM. Combining Tstr with Resisted gives you much more control/support and enables you to be more precise.  I love resisted because it works on a couple of principles, Reciprocal inhibition = relaxation of those muscles being stretched which helps you to maintain your lock.  

From a technical point of view, in my online course I explain how the technique interacts with different receptors that love this approach. There is a good reason why we use a variety of techniques, the connective tissue responds to various forms of touch, we use compression, vibration, rocking, shaking, long strokes, stretching, fast and slow movements, all of which communicate to different receptors, hence why one technique does not get you total results… more about this in the online course.  

Susan Findlay
Susan Findlay

My name is Susan Findlay and like most of the people I teach, I came to sports massage & remedial soft tissue therapy by way of a journey.

My journey began with classical dance and gymnastics back in my home country, Canada. When your body is the tool that you work with, you learn to take notice of it and it was this interest in the human body that led me to retrain as a nurse.

After working for the NHS, I made the choice to be my own boss. Still in the health and fitness field, I worked with GPs and health centres, setting up different schemes for a range of clientele. Holding 20+ classes a week and running multiple health programmes, I discovered a love of teaching and enjoyed the rewards of helping clients reach their goals.

I retrained in 1996 and gained a Sport Massage and a Remedial Soft Tissue Therapy qualification that helped me to bring all my skills together. This eventually lead me into teaching and writing a book.  As life would have it my focus evolved into becoming a specialist in oncology massage, long before it was trendy and not considered a contraindication.  I now teach a program nationally that offers certification for therapists to offer a much needed and appreciated therapy.  

Although I am the director (and senior lecturer) of NLSSM, I have never given up the practical side of the profession and I still run my own clinic in both North London & Wales. 

Keeping up with the real world helps to keep me inspired and that helps to make me a better teacher.

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