How I became a fan of Active Isolated Stretching.

In the mid-90s, I had a client. Let’s call him Rastus. I used craniostructural techniques to, at first, deal with his headaches. They, however, made big differences in his demeanor. Rastus was in his early 40s and pretty aggressive but the cranial work made him surprisingly agreeable. His wife paid for him to get weekly sessions.

Rastus loved his kayak but paddling gave him a shoulder problem that was being addressed by another therapist. He would ask me to work on it but I was reluctant as I did not know what the other therapist was doing and was concerned about creating problems. Also, his wife paid for cranial work. Rastus bugged me about this almost every week. This went on for a few months.

I was not a fan of stretching. People would come in and ask me about stretches, usually for hamstrings. I gave them the stretches that I learned during sports massage training. Some people seemed to like doing them. Most people would do their stretches daily and get some relief. When I checked their range of motion each week, it was about the same. I was not encouraged. When I stretched people and asked them to describe what they called “that good stretch feeling,” they always seemed to describe the trigger point referral pattern of the muscle that I was stretching. I could get longer lasting results by releasing the trigger point (usually through joint work).

I was teaching cranial seminars and many of the students raved about AIS.  I had one of the Aaron Mattes’ earliest books on my shelf. It was a thin blue book that was folded and stapled in the middle. I had gotten it at the massage school because one of the instructors spoke of it highly. Rastus liked stretching so, one day, when he asked me about his shoulder, I took the book off the shelf and gave it to him and told him to try it.

Rastus was dutiful and exceptionally good at home therapies. His wife, who was a yoga instructor and massage therapist had never seen stretching like this but helped him. When he came back the next week he said that the stretching was odd. He said that he had done many forms of stretching but AIS had unusual stretches that he had never seen. He said that Mattes’ ideas about repetitions and hold time were very different. He said that his shoulder pain was gone. AIS is a great technique by itself but, in this case, the cranial work had helped in creating his quick results.

So shortly after that, I went to Florida for a week to learn more about craniostrucutral techniques and spend some time with Aaron in his clinic. I have been converted. I am now a fan of stretching – when it is AIS. I took his courses and I’ve practiced AIS since the late-90s. It contributes to the success that I have in my practice every day.

It’s not just my practice. Across the nation, AIS has grown in popularity over the last 20 years. It produces results. It has become a respected standard in the rehabilitative therapies. Clients don’t just feel better, they change in their range of motion and are able to get consistent results.

I have combined it with other therapies to make it even more effective. AIS gets faster and longer lasting results with craniostructural techniques.  

This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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