What is Fascia?
Fascia is a web of connective tissue found around your muscle fibres, muscle groups, organs, blood vessels and nerves. It is what keeps everything in a tightly compact position within the body and allows for smooth movement within these structures. It is extremely flexible and is able to withstand great force and multidirectional pull. Its composition is mainly that of collagen, similar to tendons and ligaments.
There is a multitude of reasons why your fascia can become “unhealthy”. Here are the main ones:
1. Dehydration: When the body is dehydrated the fascia becomes less flexible and pliable, therefore restricting movement between structures. Think of a thirsty plant – when the soil is dried out, the leaves become brittle and lose their vibrancy. Same concept applies to your fascia!
2. Neglected Injury: Whether your injury has been severe, a case of overuse, whether the injury is new or old, your body reacts to try to heal that area the same way. The brain triggers a response to send collagen to the area of injury. Fascia is made up of collagen, so when there is an overabundance of it in a certain area, this can also contribute to a limited range of motion. Remember! Even an injury from your childhood that you would otherwise consider unimportant can attribute to your fascia becoming constricted over time.
3. Emotional Trauma: We have all read about it – “stress causes disease!”. Whether you believe it or not, it has been scientifically proven that our bodies can suffer from emotional trauma – that means STRESS. One of the structures that suffers first is your fascia. This is where it all begins. Restriction within the fascia inhibits mobility within the structures of the body – muscles, organs (including your liver!), nerves (including your brain!) the circulatory system (including your heart!) and everything in between, become severely compromised in their function.
What to do?
1. Manual Therapy: Everything from massage, acupuncture and myofascial release can help release any restrictions in the fascia. The key is to catch the problems early. If however, you’ve waited a little too long, it’s not too late! Your therapist can still work his/her magic; the process may take a little longer. Working with fascia usually requires a more aggressive approach. Be patient and keep moving!
2. Do Yoga: Your first thought is, “I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga!”. I give all of my student of yoga and my massage and acupuncture patients the same response, “Flexibility is NOT a prerequisite for doing yoga.”. We all have to start somewhere! Yoga increases blood and lymphatic flow which speeds up the healing process. With gentle fluid movements along with controlled breathing, your fascia will be able to lengthen more efficiently. When you feel tight it’s not your muscles that are tight; it’s your FASCIA!
3. Drink plenty of water: Just remember the thirsty plant, and just like that thirsty plant: when you begin to take in more water, it will go right through you at the beginning. Until your fascia becomes well saturated with water your body will quickly extract it. Once all of the structures are well hydrated you won’t have to take as many visits to the bathroom!
4. Keep moving: Wonder why you feel tight first thing in the morning? You haven’t been moving all night! Your fascia has become restricted in your sleep! As soon as you plant those feet on the floor, get moving – stretch and soften the body with gentle movements. Your fascia will thank you for it!