So, you have heard about fascia, the big question is, just what is it, and how does it impact you?
You are held together by fascia. It holds each muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ in place. If you are a carnivore you will have eaten some. Remember that piece of biltong (beef jerky) that you ate? Well, if you chewed on a piece that never seemed to give a way, and had no taste, the white piece that you eventually spat out – that was fascia. It is made up of collagen and has a fascinating role in the human body. The easiest way to get a sense of where it is, is to push down on your skin-2mm will do, and you will be pushing on the first outermost layer of fascia.
Most athletes with an injury issue will think of the injury in terms of muscles and bones. The muscle’s job is to pull on the bones, and that coordinated force causes you to swim, bike, run, walk, dance, pull a weight, walk etc. The reality is that it is time to think a bit further; in fact, Tom Myers, author of the book, Myofascial Trains wrote the following, “Your brain does not think in terms of biceps and deltoids. There is one muscle that exists in 600 fascial pockets. Ultimately, the brain creates movement in terms of large fascial networks and individual motor units, not our named muscles.” Most body work therapy has meant that either broken bones have been set, or that sore muscles have been massaged. Of course there is still a place for this, but, there is also a vital role for fascia release. The system is just too important to ignore.
What it should do and what can go wrong.
– It wraps around each organ and muscle and allows them to slide and move past one another. When things go wrong the fascia can get sticky and stuck. It is my belief that this plays a role in Illiotibial band syndrome. It can at times be a bit stubborn and take a few sessions to loosen.
– The fascia is full of sensors. If damaged or stressed, the sensors can send misinformation to the brain, and thus alter efficient movement.
– The fascia can be remolded. This is good and bad news. Imagine that you have a tight jersey on. Now, over a period of eight hours stretch the fabric. Imagine now a person slumping over a computer for eight hours. The fascia around your back and shoulders begins to stretch while the fascia around your collar bone, sternum etc, begins to shrink. In other words, you have gone about remodeling your shape, for the bad.
– Now imagine snagging your jersey on a nail. A piece of thread pulls on the nail and alters the shape of the jersey. One tight area, one stretched portion. This is what can happen as an injury takes place. Runners knee or more accurately, patellar femoral pain syndrome is often caused by your vastus lateralis muscle pulling harder than your vastus medialis muscle. This will cause your knee cap to pull “skew” over your femoral head. Repeat the movement often enough, and and you will need to rework the fascia as part of an overall treatment approach.
What to do with your Fascia?
– Movement matters. Ever seen a stiff cat? No. One of their secrets is that they love stretching. When you wake up in the morning, think like a cat. Give yourself a massive stretch. Getting your fascia moving first thing in the morning is vital. One the negative side – Run for a period of time with a bit of a limp and the fascia will “learn” that movement pattern leaving you potentially with a limp long after the injury has left.
– Have you ever been given one of those dehydrated sponges as a present? The packaging normally instructs you to drop the sponge in water and watch what happens. Over a short space of time a brittle and easy to break solid turns into a material that is flexible and easy to move. Take home lesson – drink lots of water.
– Stretch your muscles. They typically take between 30 and 40 seconds to stretch. From time to time stretch your fascia. This takes a bit longer. Find the part that you want to stretch, get it into a light stretch and hold for between 3 to 5 minutes.
– Make an appointment with us to get it released.
I have incorporated elements of fascial release to what I do in order to help athletes over injuries. I believe that a mix of stretches, muscle release, fascial release, dry needles and kinesiology tape can merge together and help people overcome injuries.