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Soft Tissue Work?


I have come across this term, “soft-tissue work” on the internet several times. Usually it is something a therapist will say. What’s does it mean? – Agnes Choo

Hi Agnes,

Yes, that is a common phrase used by many therapists even by massage therapists or personal trainers. Essentially, the term ‘soft-tissue’ refers to the soft materials of your body’s musculoskeletal system such as muscles, the fascia surrounding muscles, tendons and ligaments.

If it used in a even broader medical sense, it even covers blood vessels such your veins and arteries and soft body organs.

Another way to think about ‘soft-tissue’ is what is it not. Non-soft tissues or ‘hard tissues’ are hard bony structures like bones, nails and teeth.

There are other types of tissue that are soft but not termed as soft tissue. They include some types of nerve tissue and hormone producing cells. Usually the first paragraph is a good enough descriptor for most.

In the context of therapy, ‘soft-tissue’ work refers to massages or release techniques on the soft tissues. Some examples of soft-tissue work include deep-tissue massage, trigger point release, reflexology and myofascial release.

‘Hard-tissue’ work refers to techniques where force is exerted on the bones themselves. Examples include joint mobilisation or spinal manipulation.

Physiotherapists do both ‘soft-tissue’ as well as ‘hard-tissue’ work. However, looking on from outside, it is often hard to distinguish which is which.

Sylvia Ho

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