Fascia doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s a web-like connective tissue that not only surrounds every tissue in the body, but encases the entire body itself. Fascia is intricately connected to the autonomic nervous system, and keeps the body in alignment. Distortions in fascia cause sore, achy muscles and other painful conditions. What is tight fascia and how do you relieve it?
Fascia, tough layers of fibrous-connective tissue, is found throughout the entire human body. The thick, white, membrane that covers a chicken breast – the one that resembles plastic wrap – that’s fascia. Located just beneath the skin, fascia attaches, stabilizes, and separates muscles and other internal organs.
Think of fascia kind of like a spider’s web that encases your whole body. Composed of densely packed collagen fibers, it permeates muscles, bones, nerves, organs, and even blood vessels. Fascia, is possibly, the most misunderstood system of the body.
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Fascial Adhesions Cause Pain
Fascia is a vital part of the musculoskeletal system, and affects our general well-being. Thick fascia, that has hardened, impairs mobility, interferes with nerves, and causes pain. Healthy fascia is linked to stability, flexibility, and resiliency. When it’s functioning properly, fascia is smooth and supple, and slides easily allowing for a full range of motion.
What causes fascia to lose its flexibility and shape? Trauma, sports injuries, accidents, surgery, over-training, and even childbirth can all cause distorted fascia. Lack of consistent movement causes fascia to lose its suppleness, and to become sticky. Add to that poor posture and fascia further loses its pliability.
Chronic repetitive movements can cause fascial tissue to get locked into unhealthy patterns. This can lead to limited range of motion and pain. Stress also affects the integrity of fascia, causing the fibers to thicken and inhibit movement. All these conditions create the perfect storm for adhesions to form, which cause pain, stiffness and discomfort.
Common Conditions Associated With Fascia
I’m sure you’ve heard of many of the conditions below, but what you may not know is that they can be the result of distorted fascia. Restricted connective tissue, specifically fascia, can cause adhesions, scar tissue, and an unhealthy web of fibrous tissue that is no longer stretchy and elastic.
Healthy fascia should resemble a wet sponge that can be twisted and squeezed without breaking. Unhealthy fascia, on the other hand, is like a dry, brittle sponge that begins to fall apart when manipulated. Normally functioning fascia is arranged in a parallel design, with membranes that are flat and smooth.
When fascia is injured, the fibers are no longer parallel to each other, but run in every direction. Instead of lying flat, like a piece of paper, they are crumpled, tight and tangled, restricting movement, impairing posture, and even leading to joint degeneration.
What Is Tight Fascia And The Conditions It Causes
- Plantar Fasciitis
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Hypermobility of the joints
- Frozen Shoulder
- IT Band Syndrome
Everything In The Body Is Connected
Most of us aren’t familiar with fascia, let alone know much about it, until something goes wrong. Then, we are forced to become acquainted with it. It’s like the GI system – you don’t know it’s there until it acts up. Think of it this way – essentially, the human body is shrink-wrapped in fascia, which is responsible for maintaining harmony and homeostasis. When disruptions occur, repercussions can be felt in areas far removed.
Injury and pain are the outcome of restricted fascia, but it doesn’t end there. Tight, rigid, fascia in one area of the body can have far-reaching effects on other body tissues, causing a ripple effect of pain, decreased circulation, inhibited nerve impulses, and limited flexibility, even in areas that weren’t themselves injured. This ripple effect is due to the fascial line that connects various parts of the body – for instance, the wrist, elbow, and shoulder are all connected.
Tight, inflexible fascia has a direct effect on the muscular system. Fascia is a three-dimensional tissue, and doesn’t just wrap around muscles, but runs directly through them. You can see how intricately connected fascia and muscle are. Restricted fascia negatively affects muscle contraction leading to tight, rigid muscles. Tight fascia = Tight muscles.
Fascial Damage Can Be Reversed
Sing it from the rooftops – fascial damage can be reversed, and future injury prevented by engaging in healthy lifestyle strategies that we should all be participating in any way.
- Consistent exercise: Move regularly to prevent sticky adhesions to form that limit range of motion and cause pain.
- Daily stretching: Tight muscles cause fascia to become rigid, leading to compressed nerves and muscles. Stretching also keeps the fascia hydrated.
- Manage stress: Engage in activities that are relaxing, such as, long walks, saunas, and relaxing baths. Stress alters the pH in the body, causing increased tissue contraction.
- Use a fascia blaster: I love this technique to release adhesions. You can also use it on your face.
- Foam rolling and massage: Roll out your muscles to stretch tight muscles and relieve tension.
- Myofascial therapy: This restores natural elasticity to rigid fascia.
- Drink more water: Fascia is composed of water so stay hydrated to keep it lubricated. Coffee, soda, and wine are all dehydrating so drink in moderation.
- Apply heat: Saunas and warm baths can relax tight fascia to ease pain and tension.
- Proper nutrition: Supply your body with adequate nutrition so it can function properly. Toxins negatively affect the fascia so ditch the toxic food.
Don’t ignore the signals your body sends. Listen to what its saying and respect its messages. If you’re experiencing pain, take time off from your usual exercise routine. Opt for gentle stretching instead.
With our stressful, sedentary lifestyles it’s no wonder conditions associated with unhealthy fascia are common. Fascia is the tissue that holds the human body together so disruptions in its function will lead to any number of symptoms.
If you have a nagging injury you suspect is related to distorted fascia, follow the tips above to restore your fascia to functional levels.
Do you have any of the conditions above? Have you learned something you didn’t know about fascia? Let me know in the comments:)