Why stretch for five minutes? Myofascial Release Self Treatment

By Corrie Sawatzky, CMT 

Those of you who have worked with me are familiar with me giving you instructions to hold your stretches for AT LEAST five minutes when you do your homework. Why is that? 

When you stretch your muscles, you are also working with the fascia. Fascia surrounds every muscle, organ, nerve and blood vessel in your body. It is a three dimensional web that goes from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Fascia is made up of collagen, elastin, and ground substance. Ground substance should be watery and flow easily, but in areas of restriction and tightness it has dried up like an old sponge. The elastin can stretch easily, but then returns to its normal shape once released. The collagen however is as strong as steel, and won’t budge under pressure. 

Fascial restrictions, created from physical or emotional trauma, scars from surgeries, or repetitive use, are able to exert 2,000 pounds per square inch… and simply cannot be forced. The only way to get the fascia to release is with…patience!  After about 90 seconds of steady and gentle pressure, the brain communicates with the fascia that it is safe to start letting go. You may feel a softening, like taffy stretching or butter melting. Continue the stretch for another 3-4 minutes as you feel the fascia releasing, sometimes in a three dimensional pattern. Feel into your body’s wisdom and adjust the stretch as needed to follow the release. An especially tight area can take longer. If it starts burning gently, stay with it, the release will happen soon. If it starts burning too much, ease up. You will be more effective if you do not push your body into protective mode. If you achieve one release, you can stay with it and give it more time. You can release several layers this way. 

As you gently stretch for several minutes, the tight, hardened areas of fascia will become soft and allow the fluid component to flow freely again, and that intense pressure will be released. Your body will be stimulated to produce interleukin-8, a powerful anti-inflammatory and cancer fighter. You may feel heat and see your skin turn red as the tight area begins to have increased blood flow. When you are ready to come out of the stretch, ease out slowly and enjoy your new range of motion. 

This is the way to create lasting results and achieve true change through stretching, five minutes at a time! 

 © 2020 Fair Oaks Head and Neck Therapies 

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