“Sit in your chair with your knees bent and dorsiflex your ankle (flex up and down). Now take that leg and with the knee straight, put it on the table in front of you and do the same thing. The foot moves less. Now bend your trunk forward. Even less motion [in the ankle]. Next, drop your head. Now you can really feel tightness in your calf. This demonstrates just one simple fascial connection…” – Dr. Thomas Findley MD, PhD
Hi, friends! This marks the first of many in the flexibility series! I have read articles and have done hours of research to understand the fascia (pronounced fa-sha) and why it matters. I didn’t realize we have this incredible connective tissue throughout our entire body that gives us our human form. The fascia is within and surrounds your muscles and plays a substantial role in how your body moves. To achieve healthy flexibility, full range of motion and good posture you need to understand your fascia and how to care for it. The fascia is vital to our existence, and it’s rather interesting!
Fascia is Latin for “band” or “bundle,” and it is mostly made up of collagen. When examined under a microscope, it looks like cobwebs; your natural, year-round Halloween decoration🕸🕷. It is a major sense organ that travels the entire body and keeps us in our human form. Fascia is taut, tight and strong yet flexible, relaxed and wavy. It can contract, feel, impact the way you move, contract on its own and separate from the muscle all without your command. A healthy fascia is flexible and malleable enough to glide, twist, and bend without pain and connects the entire body while protecting each individual section.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! It also creates a cling-wrap like sheath around your muscles and prevents you from over-stretching (similar to the Golgi Tendon Organ). The fascia allows your organs to stay in place while you do things like jump rope or pole vault. There is a theory that instead of us having 600 individual muscles, we have one muscle segmented into 600 fascial pockets.
There are four different kinds of fascia: superficial, deep, visceral, and parietal.
- Superficial Fascia lays directly under the skin.
- Deep Fascia encases the bones, muscles and nerves, as well as the blood vessels.
- Visceral Fascia simply surrounds the organs in nice little cavities. You could say it keeps the body ORGANized.🤣
- Parietal Fascia line the wall of a body cavity.
“Okay, so what, why should I care?”
Well, Sassy Pants, you should care because if one part of your fascia is tight, restricted, or unhealthy it can wreak havoc on your ENTIRE BODY😱! An unhealthy fascia can impact the way you move and your posture which will cause aches and pains. When there is pain or dysfunction on one area of the body, the fascia will compensate by tightening or thickening to keep you going. Though this is a cool feature, it can lead to pains in other, seemingly unrelated parts of the body. For example, if you have fascia dysfunction in your left hip, you will, more than likely, land on your right foot harder to compensate, thus potentially developing plantar fasciitis in your right foot🤯. It’s like this throughout your whole body; one issue can quickly lead to another. And you don’t want that, do you?
Another reason to care is because the fascia is also connected to your emotions. For real. If you have a perpetual fascial imbalance that affects your posture and your daily movements, it will change your emotional state. When there is an alteration in your fascia, your posture is altered, therefore your emotions are altered. So, you definitely want to keep your fascia happy and healthy.
How do you do that, you ask? Well, it’s quite (almost, kinda sorta) simple!
First, you need to know what makes your fascia unhealthy. Unhealthy fascia can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, dehydration, bad posture, unhealthy eating habits, poor sleep quality, or overuse/injury of the muscle. Lucky for you most of these are preventable!
So, you want to do the common knowledge healthy things like drink your water, eat your veggies, move your body, get sleep, and try to get your stress level down. You can also use self-myofascial release (SMR) with foam rolling and massagers, but there is a twist. Usually, when you foam roll, you use a roller to find the tender spot on the muscle and gentle roll back and forth for about 60 seconds. Instead, to release the fascia, you need to gently roll that area for 2-5 MINUTES. You don’t need much pressure; just soft, consistent pressure. Same with plain ole stretching, you need to gently hold the stretch for 2-5 minutes. In case you’re not understanding, the fascia responds better to longer durations and a soft touch instead of the hard and fast 60 seconds. You see, a fiber of fascia is strong enough to take on 2,000 lbs of pressure PER SQUARE INCH. This means you have to be sneaky by holding that gentle stretch longer. Ja feel?
There are also alternative care options such as fascial stretch therapy (FST) and movement therapy. During FST, the practitioner will help you discover your imbalances and will stretch those specific points in the fascia. Movement therapists typically use Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method to help you become aware of your body and how you move.
To sum it up:
The fascia is a connective tissue throughout our entire body and gives us our human-like figure. There are four different kinds; superficial, deep, visceral, and parietal all of which are connected. The fascia clearly has a mind of its own with all its contracting without your permission. Then, when there is a problem somewhere in the body, it shortens or thickens to ‘help’ solve said problem only to cause problems somewhere else. Simply stated, when your fascia is unhappy, you are unhappy. All that being said, the fascia is remarkable, and we need to recognize it and care for it.
Our bodies are bad asses.
In two weeks I’ll post the next part of the Flexibility series! If you subscribe, it’ll go straight to your email!
As always, Just keep going!