When you think about going to the chiropractor, you might envision a chiropractic adjustment. In addition to the adjustment, your chiropractor can do much more to help relieve specific types of pain or conditions while also improving how you move and function. One common tool is soft tissue therapy, which can help you with your pain, function, and overall musculoskeletal health. Your chiropractor will make recommendations on what treatment options may be best for you, your needs, and your goals.
Soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, and tendons) may exhibit abnormal tension from poor posture, traumatic injury, or strain or sprain from a specific activity. This tension may produce pain, tenderness and/or cause movement dysfunctions and can manifest many ways, including trigger points. We often refer to a trigger point as a taut band of muscle that can be painful upon compression and can give rise to referred pain and motor dysfunction, sometimes referred to as a knot or “kink.”
Soft tissue therapy has many benefits, and there are several techniques that can be used to help manage pain and treat trigger points. Let’s review the basics of soft tissue therapy:
What is soft tissue therapy?
- Soft tissue therapies are mechanical forms of therapy where soft-tissue structures are pressed and kneaded, using physical contact with the hand or a mechanical device.1
- The principle aim of soft tissue therapy is to relieve pain and inflammation, prevent further injury, reduce spasm, correct abnormal postures, and improve circulation.
- Soft tissue therapy helps increase local blood flow and recovery—helping to clear damaged cells, supply tissues with oxygen and nutrients, as well as assist in tissue healing.2
- This hands-on therapy is a specialized approach to help relieve pain, decrease stiffness and dysfunction, as well as improve the affected area’s range of motion.3
- Licensed healthcare professionals who typically provide soft tissue therapy include chiropractors, massage therapists, occupational therapists, and physical therapists.
A systematic review of the literature found that there is evidence that manual therapies are useful in the short-term relief of trigger point pain.4 Discussing the various techniques and benefits with your chiropractor is a great way to decide if soft tissue therapy is a good fit for you.
- Piper S, Shearer HM, Côté P, et al. The effectiveness of soft-tissue therapy for the management of musculoskeletal disorders and injuries of the upper and lower extremities: a systematic review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury management (OPTIMa) collaboration. Man Ther. 2016; 21:18-34. doi: 10.1016/j.math.2015.08.011.
- Montañez-Aguilera FJ, Valtueña-Gimeno N, Pecos-Martín D, Arnau-Masanet R, Barrios-Pitarque C, Bosch-Morell F. Changes in a patient with neck pain after application of ischemic compression as a trigger point therapy. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2010; 23(2): 101-4. doi: 10.3233/BMR-2010-0255.
- McMurray J, Landis S, Lininger K, Baker RT, Nasypany A, Seegmiller J. A comparison and review of indirect myofascial release therapy, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, and active release techniques to inform clinical decision making. Int J Athl Ther Train. 2015; 20(5): 29-34. doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1123/ijatt.2015-0009.
- Vernon H, Schneider M. Chiropractic management of myofascial trigger points and myofascial pain syndrome: a systematic review of the literature. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009; 32(1):14-24. doi: 1016/j.jmpt.2008.06.012.