Local golf legend and PGA winner, Justin Thomas credits assisted stretching with improving his stance, stamina and swing. But golfers aren’t the only ones buzzing about this proactive form of bodywork that boosts flexibility, balance, energy and can alleviate a long list of aches and pains.
Some of us pop an ibuprofen. For others, the first line of defense for muscle pain might be to make a massage appointment. But there’s a more active form of bodywork that’s receiving a lot of attention in the media for providing dramatic results for athletes and non-athletes alike— both in terms of relieving chronic pain and improving physical strength, stability and stamina. “The basis of stretch massage is that it is just a head-to-toe, total-body stretch,” says Sallie Hodge, a massage therapist at Massage Envy in Middletown, a company that’s putting stretching on the radar nationally.
“You’re releasing muscle tension, overcoming the body’s natural fight or flight instinct and opening up the body, increasing circulation and helping the body react in a natural way rather than tensing up.”
The Streto Method, which is followed by Massage Envy therapists across the country, always works from the top down, no matter where a client’s troublespots may be. “People will come in and say, ‘My legs are where the pain is really bad or my lower back is the problem,’” says Hodge. “But we always do the full body first and then concentrate on those areas.” Unlike traditional Swedish massage, assisted stretching incorporates active resistance from the client. “While we have the client in a stretch, we have them push against us and use the muscle,” she says. “We help bring your body back into the correct anatomical position.”
At Massage Envy, instruments designed just for their therapists are used to exert pressure on the muscles. The treatment really opens the front of the body and breaks up muscle fascia— increasing circulation, bringing down inflammation, and increasing energy. “When we’re finished, you have a little more pep in your step,” she says. But you have to work a little bit. “We tell clients to come in comfortable clothes, prepared to be active participants,” says Elena Silliman, a therapist at Massage Envy in Clarksville, IN. “They will feel the stretches, but we never push them beyond where they’re comfortable.”
It’s an extremely effective treatment for athletes—who put their bodies through punishing routines and require a speedy recovery from strains or pains. That’s why our own local sports celebrity, Justin Thomas, is an ambassador for Massage Envy and the PGA is an official sponsor of their assisted stretching treatment. But golfers aren’t the only ones benefiting. “I have a nine-year-old coming in who’s a competitive gymnast,” says Silliman. “It helps her with flexibility and increases her range of motion. She takes a lot of impact to the spine and the stretching can counter that.” She also counts among her regulars a traveler with an aching lower back; amateur and professional golfers; tennis players and runners. “Honestly, if you are any human who has a spine, it can make you feel and perform better,” she says. It can even help you get enhanced benefits from a more traditional massage. “It relaxes and lengthens your muscles so we don’t spend the first 15 minutes of your massage trying to get them to release,” she explains. That’s why a common appointment is a 30-minute stretch session followed by a thirty or 60-minute massage. “But it’s not mandatory to do both,” says Silliman. “It’s a very customizable treatment. I have some clients who come in for 60 minutes of stretching and they leave limber and relaxed. What’s so wonderful about stretching is that it’s another service we can offer or combine with other massage to get the very best