What is Soft Tissue Therapy?

 

This is a common question and the main confusion for people seems to arise upon trying to discern the difference between Soft Tissue Therapy and other massage therapies.

 

So is Soft Tissue Therapy a massage therapy then?

 

Soft Tissue Therapy can certainly incorporate massage, but it is used only as part of a wider variety of treatments that Soft Tissue Therapy offers. 

 

It’s better to view massage as one aspect of the larger spectrum of Soft Tissue Therapy, rather than Soft Tissue Therapy being a type of massage therapy itself.

 

What does the ‘soft’ in Soft Tissue Therapy mean?

 

A Soft Tissue Therapist works with the soft tissues of the body. The soft tissues include: skin, fascia, muscles (superficial and deep), tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, fibrous tissues, fat, other connective tissues and nerves. 

 

The ‘soft’ in Soft Tissue Therapy doesn’t mean soft, as in gentle!

 

However, we feel its important for you to know that a properly trained Soft Tissue Therapist will work in such a way with you as to make your treatment as comfortable for you as possible. A Soft Tissue Therapist’s training places importance on dispelling the ‘no pain, no gain’ myth that has unfortunately been encouraged by the all too common idea that a massage, or sports massage, has to be painful in order for it to be - or do - any good.

 

So what techniques does a Soft Tissue Therapist use?

 

A Soft Tissue Therapist will usually use any combination of the following massage, movement and neuromuscular techniques during a treatment or over the duration of a treatment plan:

 

  • Myofascial Release (MFR)

  • Soft Tissue Release (STR)

  • Muscle Energy Techniques (MET) inc. Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR); Reciprocal Inhibition (RI); Strain/Counterstrain Technique (SCS); Positional Release (PR); Pulsed MET; Slow Eccentric Isotonic Stretch (SEIS); 

  • Trigger Point Therapy (TPT)

  • Therapeutic Stretching

  • Deep Tissue Massage techniques

  • Swedish Massage Techniques

  • Taping or Strapping

  • Exercise and movement guidance

  • Lifestyle advice

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What kind of thing can a Soft Tissue Therapist help me with?

 

Soft Tissue Therapy treatments are aimed at helping alleviate pain; resolving minor musculoskeletal injuries - whether they are sporting injuries or otherwise; improving and helping you understand any postural or movement pattern issues - including gait - you may be experiencing; reducing acute and chronic tension; increasing strength and flexibility; improving training performance; educating you about how our bodies work; and empowering you to be able to take responsibility for creating the changes you want to experience.  

 

Examples of some of the types of issues we work with clients on as Soft Tissue Therapists to resolve, or manage, include:

 

 

  • Neck pain and stiffness

  • Tennis elbow

  • Shoulder pain

  • Achilles tendinopathy

  • Lower back pain

  • Plantar fasciitis

  • Sciatica 

  • Upper back pain and tension

  • Headaches

  • Scoliosis

  • Shoulder protraction (slouching)

  • Postural issues that are causing problems

  • Breathing issues

  • Pre & post sport specific strength and performance work (prehab and rehab)

  • Post-operation rehab

  • Specific muscular injuries (e.g. strains

  • Pre and post event massage work

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Arthritis

  • Anxiety

  • Osteoporosis

 

Can a Soft Tissue Therapist diagnose my problem?

 

No, although a Soft Tissue Therapist’s scope of practice includes full assessment and analysis, we are not qualified to make a diagnosis. Only your GP, consultant or physiotherapist is qualified to diagnose your condition.

 

That’s not to say you can’t have a Soft Tissue Therapy consultation without a diagnosis.

 

If, however, your Soft Tissue Therapist considers a diagnosis to be a necessary requirement in order to provide you with safe and effective treatment, they will ask you to visit an appropriate health professional prior to continuing with active treatment.

 

For chronic and complex issues it is always advisable to seek guidance from a health professional to find out if Soft Tissue Therapy is suitable for you. 

 

Where certain medical conditions, or medications (contra-indications) are present, a Soft Tissue Therapist will approach your health professional to request consent to treat you, but they will only do so with your full knowledge and consent.

 

Alternatively, your GP, Consultant or Physiotherapist may well refer you to a Soft Tissue Therapist for treatment following their diagnosis.

 

So why have I never even heard of Soft Tissue Therapy?

 

It’s common not to have heard of Soft Tissue Therapy in the UK as it is currently emerging as an exciting, and relatively new, discipline in modern healthcare in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain and minor and chronic musculoskeletal injuries. 

 

Soft Tissue Therapy is the result of an evolution from the first Sports Massage Therapy qualification in the UK developed by the LSSM (London School of Sports Massage) in 1989. 

 

As a Level 3 qualification however, Sports Massage Therapists were not qualified to treat injuries…..but of course plenty of clients with injuries turned up for treatment!

 

By 1995, the LSSM (led by active and experienced clinical therapists) extended their course to include more advanced skills in order that their therapists could work with a wider clientele and advanced it to a Level 4 BTEC qualification, re-named Sports and Remedial Massage Therapy.

 

Around the turn of the millennium changing financial pressure on the NHS made it harder to fund the treatment of minor and chronic musculoskeletal injuries within this service. Additionally, with changes to the way Physiotherapy was being taught at the time - alongside a move away from so much physiotherapy hands-on treatment within the NHS - meant that people with these sorts of issues were finding it harder and harder to access good effective treatment.

 

As a response the LSSM - having evolved in to the ISRM (Institute for Sports and Remedial Massage) in 2005 - upgraded their BTEC training to a Level 5 Professional Diploma in Clinical, Sports and Remedial Massage.

 

This qualification continued to be refined with the addition of further assessment, treatment and rehabilitation protocols, along with a name change in 2015 to Soft Tissue Therapy designed to set it apart from the other disciplines of massage and sports massage therapies at lower levels of qualification, which do not have the scope to treat injury, perform assessments or liaise directly with health professionals.  

 

ISRM qualified Soft Tissue Therapists are currently the only clinical, sports and remedial massage therapists in the UK who are properly trained to treat minor and chronic injuries using a combination of traditional hands-on methods alongside exercise and movement rehabilitation programmes.

 

Where can I find a Soft Tissue Therapist?

 

Because the first training centres that have been set up to train properly qualified Level 5 BTEC (professional diploma) Soft Tissue Therapists are mostly in the South of England, most of these qualified professionals are found in this area of the UK.

 

Ensure you chose a fully qualified, and ISRM registered, Soft Tissue Therapist. 

 

A full list of such therapists can be found here:

 

https://www.theisrm.com/directory.php

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