The Fascinating Fascia
“Fascia is the organ of posture. The body is a web of fascia.” Ida P. Rolf, PhD
What is Fascia?
Fascia is one of the most important systems of the body and impacts your every movement. It is an interwoven system of fibrous connective tissue found beneath the surface of your skin in a three-dimensional web, much like a spider web. Your muscles, organs, bones, nervous system, circulatory system, and digestive system are all cased with fascia connecting them all. It's where collagen is produced in the body. It plays major roles in everything from keeping your skin lifted to giving joints shock absorption to giving muscles balance. Your fascia provides a framework that helps support individual muscle groups, organs, and the entire body as a unit, protecting them from outside trauma.
'It joins your thigh to your calf; your hand to your arm; your breastbone to your clavicle. As you move, it allows your muscles to glide past one another. It acts like a net suspending your organs and a high-tech adhesive holding your cells in place while relaying messages between them. Connective tissue is one of the most integral components of the human machine. Indeed, one could draw a line between any two points of the body via a path of connective tissue. This network is so extensive and ubiquitous that if we were to lose every organ, muscle, bone, nerve, and blood vessel in our bodies, we would still maintain the same shape: our “connective-tissue body.” (Helene M. Langevin, The Scientist May 1, 2013)
Your fascia plays an important supportive role to the musculoskeletal system by enabling us to perform functional activities like going from sitting to standing and being able to walk, jump and run. Blood, nerves and muscles are encased and penetrated by fascia, allowing your muscles and organs to slide smoothly against each other. Fascia also connects muscle to bone, called tendons, bone to bone as ligaments, suspends your organ structures, cushions your vertebrae and wraps your bones. When the fascia is tight, it can constrict the nerves and actually block off the nerve signal and restrict veins and arteries.
The Fascial System includes:
Tendons & Ligaments
Periosteum (surrounds bones)
Epimysium (surrounds entire muscles)
Perimysium (surrounds groups of muscles fibers into bundles or fascicles)
Endomysium (surrounds individual muscle fibres)
Joint capsules and membranes that surround organs, nerves, spinal cord and the brain all fall within the fascial system
There are 10 times more sensory nerve endings in your fascia than in your muscles. It serves as a gauge playing a huge role in your proprioception, so you know where you are and how your body is positioned without looking.
The Biomechanics of Fascia
The way we move, stand and sit can hurt our fascia creating small traumas in the body that your fascia will have to compensate for. Fascia will protect or atone for imbalances and continually work hard to make up for them. As soon as there is dysfunction the body adapts and compensates to keep the body upright and work without causing pain. As it does this, the fascia will shorten or tighten in areas because the muscles cannot hold the extra tension alone. Your posture changes to accommodate this.
Biomechanical imbalances develop in the Fascial System from physical trauma through injury, strain, scarring and overuse. Restrictions can develop from emotional trauma, poor posture, inflammation, a chronic condition, surgical procedures, stress and aging. These imbalances can create cross-links and holding patterns in the usually free-moving fascia. When restrictions develop, they cause stiffness, pain, dysfunction and limited range of movement. Distortions in fascia can pull, twist and compress the body into misalignment. The fascia becomes less fluid.
Studies show that fascial tension in one structure - such as the hip - can cause issues in adjacent structures, such as the knee or ankle. When you have fascial adhesions and distortions, this can cause poor blood flow, weaker nerve impulses, limited flexibility and range of motion, and a host of other physical ailments.
Fascia responds to mechanical forces; postural holding patterns, emotional holding patterns and injury. As our richest sense organ, Fascia can contract and impact the way we move. It possesses the ability to contract independently of the muscles it surrounds, and it responds to stress without our conscious command.
How to Love your Fascia
The vitality and strength of your fascia is key to good health and cooperation throughout each system of your body. To keep your fascia supporting your every movement is needs great nutrition, movement and hydration. A supple fascia is crucial to maintaining your body’s natural settings for alignment and function.
Good nutrition is essential to every single system. It is important that the food you supply your body maximizes its function and repair. When toxic foods (sugars, preservatives, colouring, etc.) or foods with no nutritional value are consumed, it will negatively affect your energy and your fascia. Good nutrition are foods as natural to their source as possible. The less refined food the better. Good nutrition is medicine for our body and mind.
Movement and Stretching
Once your Fascia has tightened up, it doesn't want to let go, so stretch gently. Fascia also works in slower cycles than muscles do, contracting and stretching more slowly. To stretch the fascia, hold gentle stretches for three to five minutes, relaxing into the stretch. It is vital to keep moving to the best of our capability so that the Fascia does not remodel and reshape inappropriately. You must stretch and vary your stretching exercises.
Movement, like Jingling or Self Rebounding will break up fascial holdings patterns. Think of your body as an ocean, and the waves of movement brought about by Self Rebounding will help break up fascial holding patterns and increase fluidity in our movements, breath and posture.
Our bodies are 70% water. So it is crucial to have a well-hydrated fascia to have a supple fascia. The fluid in your fascia flows around the cells delivering nutrients and removing waste and toxins. When you are sufficiently hydrated, this fluid flows abundantly, maintaining your body’s natural settings for alignment and function. When your body is dehydrated it is like a dried out sponge, brittle and inflexible. Sufficiently hydrated it is springy and resilient.
When left un-stretched the tissue hardens. If your fascia gets dehydrated and dried out it is at much greater risk for erosion, a tear, or a rupture. Massage is essential to help encourage the fascia to lengthen and move more freely, increasing range of movement and biomechanical function of your body. Where there are adhesions, massage will increase the flow of nutrients and fluid to move the fascia restrictions and increasing hydration as water may not reach those areas.
A variety of techniques are used to stretch and loosen the fascia to help restore full range of movement. Traditional Chinese Cupping and Trigger Point Therapy also help slowly release the fascia that causes the knots you feel in your muscles.