Fascia Stretching: A Therapy Style That’s Gaining Popularity
This type of therapeutic stretch, used by athletes since the 1990s, is a cousin to myofascial massage, but with less pain and more focus on joint flexibility and connective tissue around muscles.
Written and Reported by Lisa Schuetz
Finding a specialty in massage that best fits your skills may lead you beyond kneading muscles into relaxation. Fascia stretching is a specialty in which practitioners gently assist clients with stretching to relax the connective tissue around muscles.
Fascia stretching is used to increase flexibility, mobility, and range of motion in a manner that’s relatively pain free. In fact, stretch studios are popping up all over the country now that it has a reputation for speeding up recovery and improving athletic performance.
Fascia stretching therapy, similar to myofascial release therapy, focuses on fascia, the connective webbing surrounding all muscles and nerves. Therapists use sustained pressure on their clients to loosen and lengthen fascia and free up muscle tension. Some practitioners use gentle assistance to stretch the fascia and manipulate the joints around the muscles to create an enhanced state of relaxation. Often, practitioners will use a table with straps to help stabilize the client while using their body to gently help their clients stretch.
Fascia stretch therapy is said to decrease pain and stiffness and increase flexibility, mobility, and range of motion.
The therapy is said to be a game-changer when added to the toolbox of competitive athletes. In fact, stretch practitioners are often found working with Olympians, professional sports players, and competitive amateurs, using the technique to enhance their clients’ performance and recovery. Fascia stretching is relatively pain-free and is said to decrease pain and stiffness and increase flexibility, mobility, and range of motion with better posture and recovery time.
Massage therapists specializing in fascia stretching can find themselves working in gyms, physical therapy offices, and sports medicine clinics.
Fascia stretch therapy seems to be having its moment, says Lisa McNeil, M. Ed, CFSS-M, a Wisconsin-based licensed massage therapist at the Momentum Movement Clinic. She works with athletes for the U.S. Olympic Committee as well as amateur athletes.
“Currently there’s a strong trend in bodywork towards stretching,” says McNeil. “In fact, if you notice, there are more boutique stretch and flexibility companies popping up.”
Training and Education
Fascia stretching therapy training can take the form of continuing education through an accredited massage school or a specialty certification program through a school or business that focuses on this type of training. The practice is increasing in popularity for licensed massage therapists, physical therapists, sports medicine practitioners, and athletic trainers.
The American Massage Therapy Association, a nonprofit trade association for massage therapist practitioners, students, and schools, suggests that participants have accomplished the following before studying fascia stretching therapy:
Experience as a general massage therapy practitioner is recommended before enrolling in a fascia stretching therapy program
The type of training you choose will depend on what you want to do in your career, says McNeil.
“If (massage therapists) desire to work with pro teams and elite athletes, they need to understand (that) experience and reputation are important,” she says. “If they desire a more medical setting, they need to have a solid understanding of anatomy and gain training in science-based modalities that can be used with Western medicine clinicians.”
Do I Need a Specialty Certification?
While a specialty certificate in fascia stretching is not required to practice, the skills learned in a certification program will make you more knowledgeable about the therapy and more marketable as a practitioner. You will more than likely be required to hold some sort of state license that allows you to put your hands on a client, however. (Most—but not all—states require such a license). If you are already a licensed massage therapist, that will likely fit the bill, and taking continuing education classes can give you some knowledge to determine if that type of therapy will help your clients’ particular needs.
You can contact your state’s professional board, association, or organization to determine if they regulate stretching in your state.
What You’ll Study in a Fascia Stretching Program
Most certification or continuing education programs for fascia stretching will include basic courses on the science of fascia and how it works. You’ll probably also learn how to assess clients and create therapy plans. You’ll focus on various fascia stretching techniques and when to use them. Most programs also include a hands-on component that allows the student to practice the therapy on other students or instructors.
Average Length of Study
Continuing education classes can range from several hours for one class, to several classes over several days. If you are looking for certification from a specialized school, then your training may take a week or more of in-person learning with additional hours of hands-on practice with clients.
Again, the cost of your classes will depend on the level of training you intend to pursue. Continuing education classes—both online and in person—on fascia therapy can range from $75 for a single class to a complete course costing just over $600. A more in-depth specialty certification program at a specialized school can cost upward of $2,100. Tuition for basic massage school also varies, depending on the institution and the depth of study.
The BLS indicates that massage therapists across the country earn an average annual income of $47,180. This number can vary widely, though, depending on where you work, you client load, and other factors. Many therapists work part time (averaging about 27 hours a week) and, if self-employed, don’t get paid for the non-massage activities involved in running a practice.
Avg Annual Salary
Projected job growth: 22.2%
Average salary information is calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and is based on the 2019 payroll records of business establishments. Actual salaries vary greatly depending on your location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and many other factors. Please note that salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) current Occupational Outlook Handbook, it’s predicted that massage therapist careers will grow faster than most others at a rate of 21% through 2029. The public’s increasing belief that holistic wellness, massage, and now stretching support longevity and health are behind the growth in massage therapy jobs over the next decade.
McNeil advises that students should plan to use cupping therapy as an additional modality in a massage practice rather than as a sole focus, which is what she does.
With professional insight from:
Massage health professional
Fascia stretch therapy trainer