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Soft Tissue Release (STR)

What is STR?


Pinpointing the exact origins of Soft Tissue Release (STR) is almost impossible. The technique, which is known globally by many other names including, ‘pin and stretch’ and ‘anchor and stretch’ also has many variants. Active Release Technique (ART) and Transverse Soft Tissue Release (TSTR) are two examples of this.

According to Susan Finlay, who developed the TSTR technique: “There are a number of sources that claim it has its origins in their country, this in itself is testament to its far reaching and diverse use worldwide. One of the most commonly accepted points of origin dates back to the 1990’s when Stuart Taw was working with the British Athletic Team as a Sports Rehabilitation Therapist. According to some, he developed it then from the principles he observed in Swedish Osteopathy techniques. He took some of the methods used and modified them to create a fast acting and dynamic approach to treatment.” (Finlay, 2021).


What to expect from STR


Although the principals are the same, for the purposes of clarity, terms that are considered to be of UK origin will be used to describe the protocols of STR.

STR is a technique that can help shortened or tense muscles, tendons and ligaments. Firstly, the technique is normally carried out after other massage techniques, such as Connective Tissue Massage and effleurage.

STR can be used on many different areas of the body from rhomboids to hamstrings but the main principles of the technique remain the same. In his book, Sports and Remedial Massage Therapy, Mel Cash describes the technique simply as:

• “The lock: the area of adhered fibres

• The key: deep focused pressure (into the lock)

• Open the door: stretch the tissue away.”

With this in mind, the technique works by finding an area of tension on the body otherwise known as “the lock.” When this has been identified the therapist will then use an area of their body, such as a hand, fist and/or thumb, as “the key.” The therapist will apply precise pressure on the area or “into the lock.” The final stage of this three step process is, “open the door,” which involves the therapist repeatedly moving up and down an area of muscle to relieve tension whilst incorporating active and passive stretching.

“ A big muscle that feels generally tight can be treated first with large pressure points, using hand or fist working up and down the muscle to release superficial tension. Then deeper pressure can be focused through thumbs, working systematically through the area. The technique is repeated many times in succession as the area is covered, and it helps relaxation if this follows a smooth rhythm.

“ This method can be enhanced by using active and resisted movements, instead of passive ones, to stretch the muscle.” (Cash, 1996).


Benefits of STR


In one study which looked at the most common cause of trapezius muscle pain, it compared the effects of ART and Myofascial Release (MFR) on symptoms. The study concluded that ART was more effective than MFR at easing symptoms. “Trapezius muscle pain and spasm is most common musculoskeletal disorder occurring in individuals who works with an awkward position of neck for a prolonged period of time, with repetitive movements.

“Although both techniques are effective in alleviation of symptoms and associated disability in upper trapezius muscle spasm, ART gave better results as compared to MFR.” (Mishra, Prakash, Metha and Dhaduk, 2018).

In another study, the effectiveness of manual therapy alongside active soft tissue release (ASTR) and trigger point therapy was used to treat low back and leg pain. Although it is difficult to know if one was more effective than the other, it is still a positive result for a condition that affects so many people.

“Manual therapy with active soft tissue release and a trigger point block constitutes an effective treatment combination for low back pain and leg pain, but prolonged treatment is required in chronic cases.” (Kameda and Tanimae, 2019).

Similarly in a study looking at pain, again, specific to that of the gluteus medius, ART was used to treat chronic low back pain.

“Active release technique (ART) is a patented, non-invasive, soft tissue treatment process that both locates and breaks down…scar tissue and adhesions.” (Sajin Tak, 2013).

The results showed a decrease in both the visual analogue scale and the pressure pain threshold test, concluding, “…that the response to ART may be usable to treat low back pain.” (Sajin Tak, 2013).




As a massage therapist STR is a modality that works well alongside other forms of massage. It is an excellent technique to use after other massage techniques, towards the end of a treatment.

For more information email or visit us at to book an appointment.



• Cash, M., 1996. Sports And Remedial Massage Therapy. London: Ebury Press, p.218.

• Finlay, S., 2021. Home - Susan Findlay. [online] Susan Findlay. Available at: <> [Accessed 10 November 2021].

• Kameda, M. and Tanimae, H., 2019. Effectiveness of active soft tissue release and trigger point block for the diagnosis and treatment of low back and leg pain of predominantly gluteus medius origin: a report of 115 cases. [online] NCBI. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 November 2021].

• Mishra, D., Prakash, R., Metha, J. and Dhaduk, A., 2018. Comparative Study of Active Release Technique and Myofascial Release Technique in Treatment of Patients with Upper Trapezius Spasm. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 10 November 2021].

• Sajin Tak, G., 2013. The effects of active release technique on the gluteus medius for pain relief in persons with chronic low back pain. [online] Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science. Available at: <> [Accessed 14 November 2021].




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