The concept of mechanotransduction is pivotal to the understanding of microstretching®. Mechanotransduction alludes to the process of converting a physical force (i.e., manual therapy) into a biochemical signal (i.e., inflammation) a response of the tissues and cells. The force created during therapy can affect the body either positively or negatively. In terms of stretching our research has shown that the magnitude (force) of the stretch can influence the body both at the macro- and microscopic level. Our research was the first to show that stretching to the point of pain and discomfort causes an inflammatory response as measured by blood biomarkers specifically looking at inflammation and the inflammatory response.
Modulate the stress response & regulate body systems
Exercise, stress/anxiety (mental, emotional), muscle tension, and pain, are associated with the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the stress response. With the stress response being triggered during adverse situations (physically, mentally, and emotionally), it is the constant activation of the SNS that is responsible for a further breakdown of the body and needs to be disengaged. In order to counteract this response processes need to be activated that engage the parasympathetic nervous system (PsNS), mitigating the release of stress hormones (i.e cortisol, adrenaline) that contribute to inflammation, increased heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and quickening of brain waves. One way of activating the PsNS is through the use of low intensity stretching (LiS) (i.e., microStretching) that is not associated with the generation of pain (SNS response), and the use of deep breathing activating both the vagal nerve and the PsNS.
Decrease pain and tension, improve sleep
Both acute and chronic pain have been associated with tension however, although acute pain is protective in nature, chronic pain extends beyond the natural healing periods of the body, being out of proportion to the causative factor(s). This results in an over-sensitized nervous system, an alteration in neural pathways producing persistent patterns of pain, as a consequence of several chemical, anatomical, and physiological changes in the body. To manage and reverse any change in these patterns, the approach has to be very gentle (physically, mentally, and emotionally), if not, this activates and engages the SNS, culminating in changes of the neuro-endocrine and immune functions of the hypo-thalamic-adrenal (HPA) axis. This effects the regulating the mechanisms of sleep, with a rise in cortisol, oxygen consumption, and pro-inflammatory proteins (ctokines), sleep is disrupted. In short, this is similar to the fight, flight, or fright response of the body to stressful situations.
Improve range of motion and performance
Muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia play an important role in joint range of motion (ROM) and function (dynamic and active), providing both stability and mobility and the ability to adapt to force. A study referencing very-low intensity stretching (microstretching) observed that after a 6-week training program a greater increase was seen in active ROM in the hip joint, suggesting an adaptation occurring in the musculo-tendon unit rather that the structures of the joint capsule.
Improve blood flow & circulation
Skeletal muscle stretching, in particular low-intensity stretching, plays a substantial role on the overall health and maintenance of the vasculature. Compelling evidence suggests that muscle blood flow decreases proportionally with increases in muscle length. As the muscle is progressively lengthened through stretching in combination with isometric contractions this results in a dramatic decrease of oxygenation. The mean capillary diameter becomes smaller, increasing vascular resistance, and decreasing blood flow to the muscle by as much as 40%.
With use of near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), it was demonstrated that a passive stretch with “no noticeable discomfort” compared to one with “moderate discomfort” did not impede the microvasculature, suggesting that this is dependent upon a proper muscle-intensity stretch protocol.
Aleration of Scar Tissue. Tissue healing and regeneration
Similar in theory to progressive loading through exercise, or Continuous Passive Motion (Robert Salter – A Biological Concept for the Healing and Regeneration of Articular Cartilage, Ligaments, and Tendons). Applying an appropriate amount of stress or tension at the right time can help facilitate the healing of the tissue, improve alignment, and alter scar tissue formation reducing the implications of adhesions.
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microStretching® is a therapeutic and performance enhancement technique that has been used in various populations. It has been used in professional sports leagues such as the NHL, NBA, EPL and MLS. It has also been applied to treat individuals suffering from fibromylgia, chronic fatigue, repetitive strain injuries, osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis as well as other musculoskeletal disorders.