What does fascia mean in its most basic understanding? The dictionary defines it as a “thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ;” but, that doesn’t express the full dynamic of what it is and why it’s so important to maintaining a healthy body.
Many people understand fascia as a thin layer of tissue that runs underneath the skin, but that’s just scratching the surface. This tissue is everywhere in your body. Fascia branches out from the skin, cradling all of your organs, bones, muscles, nerves, veins and arteries.
We’re not talking about individual strings or webs. Imagine one piece of strong thread twisting through your body and covering everything from your brain and heart to the tiniest bones. It forms a glorious collagen network holding the body together and defining its shape. In fact, every cell in your body is connected by this amazing web of tissue.
On a deeper level, it is the connection between more remote cells and your nervous system. Every cell in your body isn’t in direct contact with your nerves, yet every cell knows what to do in order to keep your body in motion. Those messages are traveling through this sensory tissue, connecting everything together so that your body's alignment and fluidity are maintained.
Fascia is important to spreading nutrients to every cell of your body. It is also central to the process of removing waste from your cells.
Healthy babies are born with well-hydrated, flexible tissue that has the ability to stretch and twist as the body moves. As we grow older, many things can erode that healthy condition, such as:
· Poor posture
· Overuse & stress injuries
· Emotional trauma
Think of a child falling off a bike and scraping her knee or
an adult jamming his toe on a wooden table leg. Each time you strain a muscle,
live under constant stress from an employer, or undergo surgery to fix a
medical issue, you’re adding tension to the tissue and changing its character.
With time, it can lose much of its flexibility, and restrict muscle and joint movement.
Damage to the fascia can introduce tension in the body and lead to pain. Remember, fascia is one continuous piece of tissue that connects every part of your body. What happens in one part of your body affects all the other parts of your body to varying degrees.
Inflammation, damage, and tension to fascia that isn’t easily picked up in medical scans may explain why so many people suffer from pain that doctors can't explain.
If tension is causing pain and discomfort, myofascial release therapy is often an effective treatment. This is a form of therapy that identifies trigger points from which the stiffness and pain stems. Pressure is applied to that area of the body, smoothing out and softening the tissue. When the exact trigger point is unknown, larger areas are often treated for effective pain relief.
You might consider seeing a massage therapist or chiropractor trained in fascia release treatments. As an alternative, using a foam roller at home can be quite effective.
If you sustain any type of injury, from a strained muscle to whiplash, you may benefit from myofascial therapy. If your muscles feel tight, you don’t have the range of motion that you once enjoyed, your joints feel stiff, or you have unexplained pain, you may consider giving release a chance. Myofascial massage can possibly help you recover after surgery, or added to a treatment plan for a chronic medical condition.
Myofascial release is also used as preventative treatment. The goal is to keep the tissue loose and ready to support the motion required for an active lifestyle. Whether you’re active or sedentary, keeping your fascial tissue healthy could help you maintain your mobility as you get older.
I have struggled with and cried many tears because of neck pain, back pain, and debilitating migraines. The money spent on chiropractors, therapists and doctors that included adjustments, massages, shots, heat and cold only offered temporary relief.
Recently, my physical therapist started me on a yoga regimen, specifically targeted to stretch the tight facia in my body. The reduction in pain was like a gift from God! The exercises have changed my world.
Although I have only been doing the exercises for a couple of months, I expect that continuing a daily yoga routine will reverse some of the problems resulting from tight facia.
I am not a young woman, and to see these changes so quickly is amazing! I am sold on the health benefits of yoga. ~Angela Baum, Age 61
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