By Zach Columbia BS, NASM
How do you achieve the perfect body? Not aesthetically… but functionally? The truth is, we all wake up with aches and pains, we all have limited range of motion at certain joints, and we all have dysfunction within our musculature. Are our bodies really built that poorly? Should we just accept it as normal that our backs hurt, our shoulders “freeze”, and our knees tear? What about our workouts? Should we accept that there are certain exercises that we can’t do because our bodies “just don’t move that way?” My answer to you is emphatically no. In this article, you’ll learn what FPT is and why it’s the foundation for achieving the perfect body – functionally.
Before we get into what Functional Performance Therapy aka FPT is, first I want you to Imagine a sponge. When it’s wet you can bend it, twist it, and stretch it. Leave it on the counter overnight and a simple twist will tear it in half. Your muscle tissue is the exact same way. A healthy muscle has good blood flow and good blood flow means a muscle will adapt to movement. “Wet” muscles don’t tear. Keep that in mind as you continue reading.
By now, I’m sure you’ve read and heard plenty about fascia. This connective tissue is the reason your coach tells you to foam roll religiously, but fascia is much more than just a superficial layer of tissue that you lengthen like a baker rolling dough. Fascia is everywhere, and it plays a vital role in our structural integrity and movement. When a muscle becomes weak or fatigued from an injury or overuse, our neuromuscular system responds in an effort to protect and maintain strength and stability. One way that it does this is through what I refer to as fascial splinting. Fascial splinting occurs when one muscle is pulled up against another muscle. Because fascia is in a constant state of regeneration, the neuromuscular system uses this connective tissue to splint two muscles together. In plain language… imagine you broke your pinky. What do you do? Bunny tape it of course. But in this case, your fingers are the muscles and the tape is fascia. When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Two is better than one!
Unfortunately, when our muscles bunny tape themselves together, we end up in pain and for several reasons. First, remember that fascial splinting occurs because we have a muscle that is weak or injured and that our body is trying to find a way to both protect itself and to keep performing. There are three things that are important here – and are the reason why you wake up with aches and pains, have limited range of motion in certain joints, and can’t perform certain movements.
- You have an overactive/contracted muscle. When a muscle is overused it becomes shortened and won’t lengthen or relax. This is known as a contracture.
- Unlike our bunny taped fingers, our muscles are inside our body and guess what? There are things attached to them. You can’t pull two muscles closer together without affecting their attachments. Meaning tendons, ligaments, muscles, and bones are all being pulled out of their correct location.
- Now imagine what would happen if you Bunny taped your fingers a little too tight? Poor Blood Flow! Remember that sponge?
Functional Performance Therapy is a series of precise palpation techniques used to correct each of these issues. Here’s what is does.
- By palpating the muscle tissue in the correct location, with the correct pressure, and in the correct sequence, the muscle is essentially shut off. This happens as an inhibitory response from the Golgi Tendon Organ. When the muscle shuts off, it lengthens increasing range of motion.
- Manually releasing the splint muscles removes the pressure being placed on their attachments. For instance, the piriformis muscle originates at the sacrum of the spine and attaches to the femur close to the hip. If it becomes contracted and/or splints with the nearby Gemellus Inferior and Gemellus Superior (yes those are real muscles) the pulling on the sacrum will result in low back pain. Separating and releasing these muscles is key to correcting the dysfunction and eliminating pain.
- If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: a well hydrated muscle does not tear! It’s like a wet sponge, it can stretch and it can lengthen. You can stretch and stretch, but if the muscle is splint, it will never reach a new length. Its like stretching a rope with a knot in the middle. When you bunny tape two fingers together, you wrap them tight to protect the injured finger. Fascia does the exact same thing with your muscles. Not only does this restrict blood flow, but usually results in nerve compression. Compression of the nerves causes energy leaks, misfiring of the muscles, and synergistic dominance, all of which increase the risk of injury.
So what is Function Performance Therapy? It’s a manual therapy designed to retain function, enhance performance, and achieve TRUE flexibility through healthy muscle tissue.
Do you think FTP could help you be at your best? Contact us today to make an appointment with Coach Zach.