By: Cierra Bloom, ATC, LAT, MS, CES
A key component in strength and function of the body as a whole unit that is commonly overlooked is the anatomy and biomechanics of myofascial slings. Myofascial sling is a term simply referring to the inseparable nature of the muscle tissue of the body and the connective tissue that encompasses it, as well as structures that are aligned within a specific structural webbing and how the movements that occur from them have a natural line of pull (1). These slings provide an appreciation of functional and dysfunctional states of the body as a whole (2), so if there is tension or strain in one portion, it will cause strain and tension along the line of the other structures involved (1). In order to decrease pain and/or improve performance when there is dysfunction, it is important to balance the myofascial slings with specific exercises, stretches, and techniques that target each one.
Although there are various myofascial slings throughout our bodies, there are four that are most commonly talked about. First, is the Deep Longitudinal Sling, which connects the erector spinae, multifidus, thoracolumbar fascia, sacrotuberous ligament (all in the back/ pelvis) and the biceps femoris (outer hamstring muscle) (3). This sling is responsible for movement in the sagittal plane (front-back movement) while simultaneously influencing local stability, along with keeping the sacroiliac joint (SIJ – low back joint) in its’ most stable position (3). Second, is the Lateral Sling, which is made up of the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, tensor fascia latae, iliotibial band (IT band), and contralateral quadratus lumborum (deep back muscle) and is responsible for coronal plane (side movement) stability and pelvo-femoral stability in dynamic movements such as gait, lunges, and stair climbing (3). The third is the Anterior Oblique Sling, which is the synchronous movements between same side adductors (inner thigh) and internal obliques with contralateral external obliques (3). This sling is a main contributor to the rotational movement of gait and power in multidirectional movements (3). Lastly, is the Posterior Oblique Sling, which consists of contralateral latissimus dorsi and gluteus maximus connected by the thoracolumbar fascia (posterior chain) (3). This sling is also a main contributor to the rotary movement of gait and power in multidirectional movements, but in the back of the body (3).
So why does this matter to you? Strengthening your myofascial slings as entire units improves balance and stability, increases rotational force, enhances the ability to accelerate and decelerate in different directions, protects your spine, and allows you to move in ways that will decrease your risk of injury and pain. I’ve created a quick and easy workout that targets each sling, and will help you recognize which ones (if any) are dysfunctional for you. As a rule of thumb, if you are unable to complete an exercise associated with a specific sling or there is pain during the movement, you probably have dysfunction in that sling. If you have dysfunction in one, it is likely that you have dysfunction in others – as the body is all connected. This is why addressing one muscle or joint individually doesn’t typically fix an issue. You can also recognize dysfunction if one side is stronger or more stable than the other in a particular exercise. Use low resistance in these movements and really pay attention to how your body looks and feels when performing each exercise. It’s normal to have dysfunction and imbalances, so don’t fret. Awareness is the first step toward change!
Click below to access the Myofascial Slings workout.
Spina, A. (2010). Treatment of proximal hamstring pain using active release technique applied to the myofascial meridians: A case report. 1-11. http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:LlxHTIrCF2AJ:www.sportsperform...f+active+release+technique+leahy&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=70&gl=us&client=
Wallden, M. (2010). Chains, trains, and contractile fields. Journal & Bodywork Movement Therapies, 14, 403-410. doi: 10.1016/j.jbmt.2010.07.001
Anatomy Slings and Their Relationship to Low Back Pain. (2017, June 6). Physiopedia. Retrieved 02:10, August 1, 2018 from https://www.physio-pedia.com/index.php?title=Anatomy_Slings_and_Their_Relationship_to_Low_Back_Pain&oldid=173994