What it is: “It’s like having yoga done to you on the massage table,” says Laura Johnson, one of a handful of certified fascia stretch therapists (FST) in the Twin Cities. Fascia is the 3-D web of soft tissue throughout the body that holds muscles and organs in place and regulates biomechanics. Myofascial release stretches this connective structure with a goal of improving mobility.
What’s new: Fascia used to be considered separate parts, but now it’s recognized as a single sheath linking every part of the body together. If one part of the web has a kink, it can result in pain or lack of mobility in another part. Seeing the whole lets therapists address root causes of problems.
Who it’s for: Johnson focuses on clients with chronic pain. Anyone who likes massage may want to try it, but runners and other athletes especially seek it out.
Fun fact: The Minnesota Twins have an FST on staff.
What to expect: When I showed up at Johnson’s Core Harmony studio in Roseville, she first assessed my posture and had me do some squats and some reaching above my head. “One shoulder is about an inch and a half higher than the other,” Johnson said. “It’s probably stemming from your pelvis; most problems start there.”
Johnson had me hop on the massage table, wearing my yoga pants and sports bra. She proceeded to bend, twist and stretch me — at one point hopping on the end of the table herself, throwing my leg over her back, and doing a stretch called “rock the baby,” which got deep into my chronically tight hip flexor. Throughout, she had me gently push against the pressure she applied. “I’m trying to coax your body to relax enough to allow for deeper stretching,” she said.
How it felt: Despite the pretzel twisting, the massage was never painful, though I can’t say it felt good in the way a typical massage does. Strangely, I felt very sleepy and relaxed, even as Johnson was moving my limbs in weird ways.
The result: When I stood up, my lower back felt open and my hips deeply stretched. I could fully windmill my shoulder that typically kinks at the top. Johnson talked to me about paying attention to my posture, sitting too much at work and crossing my legs all the time. She gave me stretches to do at home.
Would I go back? Definitely. Johnson charges $90-$110 an hour, depending on which package you purchase; some insurance covers the therapy with a doctor’s referral. For more information, find Core Harmony Therapies on Facebook or call 651-341-9789.
What to look for: There are two certifications and three levels for this type of massage. Look for FST or MFR (myofascial release), and ask about how much training the therapist has had.