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  • Chicago, Illinois
What is Stretch Therapy?

What is Stretch Therapy?

Never stop learning! This is especially true for a massage therapist. A couple of months ago I interviewed at a massage chain in an effort to find a safer working situation during these Covid times. While I ultimately decided that was not the best career move for me. I also discovered there has been a shift in their massage services. I am not going to say the name of this message chain. But, let’s just say it’s probably the first one that comes to mind when you think about a membership based massage business. 

About ten years ago, when I first graduated massage school I worked at this chain for about 6 months. It was intense. Very low pay for a lot of hands on work and a packed schedule with ZERO turn-over time in between clients. Honestly this company has made a lot of great changes in the past ten years and they have improved the working conditions for their therapist a lot. Well, depending upon who you talk to and how the individual franchise owners are running their locations.  Anyway, that’s not my point! My point is, they are now offering a new service where a therapist focuses on stretching rather than messaging. I found out this service was quite popular at this massage chain. It led me to do my own research and I was highly impressed by the results therapists achieve in what I learned is a modality called stretch therapy.   

Assumptions About Stretching 

 First, let me start with what I thought stretch therapy would be. I thought it might be another name for Thai massage. But, used by therapists who didn’t have formal training in traditional Thai technique. I also thought it could be an entire session devoted to passive stretches. This is where the therapist gently moves you into a specific muscle stretch to increase your range of motion. Passive stretching can become physically taxing for massage therapists and boring for clients. Finally, I thought that stretch therapy could have been an offshoot of Shiatsu. With less compressions and acupressure and more joint mobilization. 

I wasn’t all wrong, but I definitely wasn’t right either! Stretch therapy is done in many different ways by a variety of therapists. There are a number of ways to incorporate stretch into your therapy session. I was correct in assuming that Thai massage, passive stretches and Shiatsu were used. But, stretch therapy is way more complex than I originally imagined. 

Sports massage techniques along with yoga poses and acupressure points are also used by stretch therapists. There is a formal training program you can complete in what is called, fascial stretch therapy. In the videos I viewed the client is strapped to the table and moved into deep stretches by their fascial stretch therapist. 

Also, I would be remiss if I did not clarify that stretch therapists are not individuals who did not take the time to complete formal training in Thai massage!!! While elements of Thai massage may be used (I actually do!) A stretch session is totally different from a traditional Thai massage. Moreover, a stretch therapy session is not a series of boring passive stretches. While passive stretching is a key component they are not formulaic or repetitive. 

What to Expect in a Stretch Therapy Session 

So what should you expect when you schedule a stretch therapy session? First you should be prepared to go over your health history. This is to make sure it is safe for you to receive stretch therapy. For instance, if you have an injury to a joint you will need to do a modified stretch in that area. Or if you have weak bones due to osteoarthritis you will want to skip a stretch therapy session all together. After reviewing your history you are ready to begin. You will be fully clothed so make sure you are wearing something loose that you can easily move in. 

I do stretch therapy on the floor with a mat and sometimes pillows. Other therapists use a massage table they have lowered to the ground. Breath work is very important when stretching. So be prepared to focus on your breathing and take deep breaths when asked. Stretch therapy is a full body experience. I make it a point to work into the feet using acupressure. I also like to incorporate some work with the scalp. Aromatherapy is another complement to a stretch therapy session that I highly recommend. 

While each therapist approaches stretch therapy in their own unique way a number of basic requirements will remain the same. First, the stretch should never be painful. If you are experiencing pain let your therapist know right away so they can make the necessary adjustments. A stretch session will also improve your posture. This is due to lengthening of tight postural muscle and increasing range of motion when stretching. Finally, your session will increase circulation by allowing more blood to reach your muscles faster, which improves toxin removal. 

How to schedule a stretch therapy session

Ready to experience stretch therapy? Hop on over to the massage page and get in touch with me.

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