Let’s talk Fascia!
It’s the buzz word in the fitness industry, but why should I care about my fascia and how it affects me?
Lots of us have never heard of it yet it is literally in every little nook and cranny in our bodies from head to toe. Think of a fish net stocking and its mesh like structure. The fascia is a live tissue, made of collagen and elastin, attached to your muscles, bones, joints, ligaments, blood vessels and is wrapped around all your organs. It is literally holding me and you all together. The fascia is the stocking of the body. When the fascia becomes tight and sticky, it pulls on the attached joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments causing imbalance. Simply put, if you pull on one end of the stocking its interwoven connections will cause a pull on the other end.
It can be slimy, stretchy, tough, strong, and everything in between. It can be fine, wet with dew drops. Think of it as the scaffolding upon which all other structures grow.
Physical trauma to the body, prolonged sitting, lack of movement, poor posture, dehydration, stress, inflammatory diet or lack of sleep can negatively affect the fascia.
Fascia adapts to work in a particular way. So, if we do the same movement over and over again, the same way (like sitting), the body adapts and so forms adhesions and will tighten up. This leads to reduced mobility and flexibility in the body. When the fascia itself tightens up, this is what can cause muscle strains and injuries. A really relevant reason why the body loves variety in movement.
One restriction can lead to another.
Restricted fascia can cause aches and pains, imbalance and mind and soul discomfort.
Restoring the fascia back to its truest and happiest form can create a huge positive shift both physical and mentally.
Fascia has a superb memory and we all have our own unique fascial ‘stocking’ print. Memories and restrictions can be stored from birth.
It connects our toes to the top of our head.
It is our connective tissue.
It is made from collagen, elastin and a gel like substance.
It keeps our cells alive.
It protects us and responds to internal and external forces. It is our shock absorber.
It is a messenger and communication system for the body.
It is slippery and wet in nature and so allows muscles to move along each other without too much friction thus allowing them to work more efficiently.
It is active in wound healing.
So, can we influence and change our fascia? We sure can. Read on.
How can I keep my Fascia happy?
“Fascia does not discriminate. It keeps growing and eventually hardening into whatever shapes you make most often with your body”
Sadly, it is not as simple as increasing the amount of water you drink, because there is no guarantee that water will get to the de-hydrated areas in your fascia.
Visualise a sponge filled with water. Squeeze all the water out of the sponge now. Put the sponge back into water, what happens, it fills up with water again. This is what we want to happen to our fascia in hydration.
Movement hydrates our fascia and helps keep it slippery and wet as is required to allow the muscles to work well. A foam roller is great tool here as the compression of the roller squeezes out fluid. When the roller is then removed the tissue re-hydrates.
How many of us can put our hand up and say you have an unloved and unused foam roller lying in a corner somewhere, except for the kids using as a saber?
For a short time everyday you can show some love to your fascia (20 slow, smooth, fluid rolls over different areas per day). Your body will say thank you! Mine gets loved in those moments through the night when I’m awake. 5 minutes of rolling (with maybe a bit of chocolate to help ease the pain) and bam back to bed and sleep I float.
Myofascial work with different release balls are other great options. There are many balls of different sizes with varying finishes, spikes or bumps available to use to target trigger points of tightness in your body.
Your fingers are also great tools. Walk your fingers down your forearm. When you find a ‘tight’ area know that is an area of fascia that needs some hydration. Push and squeeze, dig and palpate to force the fluid out so that tissue is then forced to re-hydrate.
Fluid, smooth and rhythmic movements (eg. knee drop from side to side), twisting and spirals (sidelying rotation), wave and undulation (cat stretch moving backwards and forward), swing and pendulum are all other movement patterns that play an important role in helping improve the health of your fascia.
“Fascia gets its elasticity from elastin. It gets it’s intelligence from it’s investment of neurotransmitters. Fascia is both elastic and intelligent!”
- Sonia and Braidy