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Stretching without relief? Part 3: Sliding-Surfaces.

Why stretching alone is not our best fix for movement restriction.



Last week we discussed the complexities of joint mechanics as they relate to our mobility. Once we have restored or cleared joint mechanics, the following system to assess and address is sliding and gilding between our tissues. Today, we will discuss sliding surfaces in more detail and how to restore slide and glide between our soft/connective for overall mobility improvements.

Sliding Surfaces Sliding surfaces (a term coined by Dr. Kelly Starrett, a pioneer in the physical therapy and performance training world) "is a catchall phrase used to describe how the different components, structures, and systems of the body relate to one another" (Becoming a Supple Leopard).

Each of our soft tissues: skin, muscles, fascia, tendons, nerves, and vascular structures should be able to slide and glide relative to one another during body movement. If we do not have free gliding between each surface, we can have limited mobility. Sliding can become restricted if we contract or compress structures for prolonged periods (think about the amount of time spent sitting vs. standing). Prolonged compression or shortening causes tissues to "stick" to one another and become less able to slide. When this happens to muscles, they are less able to activate and fire, which can be felt as a weakness and tightness. When a nerve becomes stuck in its tunnel, we can get bouts of numbness or tingling.

The good news is that there are many different ways to free up compressed and stuck tissues. During our in-person PT sessions, we utilize various tools such as scraping, cupping, manual therapy, and active release technique to improve the slide and glide of soft tissues. You can utilize a foam roller or lacrosse ball to compress and shear across stuck tissue layers at home. A common misconception with these techniques is that we are breaking up fascia or scar tissue. Instead, we increase the sliding and gliding between each layer and increase blood flow to the area to change the tissue environment. These treatments also work well to desensitize a painful area and change how the brain perceives it; this creates an opportunity to improve movement patterning and quality if we follow with appropriate loading and movement drills.

As we can see, if an area is not sliding or gliding, simple stretching alone will not allow the surface to free up, and our overall mobility will not improve. Check out our Facebook or Instagram pages for tips on utilizing a lacrosse ball or foam roller at home. If you have specific questions about integrating these techniques into your routine, send us an email. We would love to chat.

Keep on sliding and gliding, Nicole Todisco MacDonald PS: Click here to book an intro call or visit!

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