What is Fascia?
Have you had stiffness, injury, or nagging pain? Is it hard to reach your feet to put your socks and shoes on? Maybe you can’t sleep on one side because of a hip or shoulder that tells you not to. It may not be bad enough to seek help but it is impacting the way you feel and the things you do. Understanding what it is and giving it some attention can change the way you feel and move.
What is fascia?
Fascia is one continuous network made of connective tissue and a fluctuating viscous fluid portion—called the extracellular matrix. Fascia surrounds and penetrates every muscle, coats every bone, and envelops every nerve, blood vessel and organ. It is everywhere in our body and is integral to every movement and non-movement in our gravitational world.
In addition to providing a scaffolding for everything in your body, fascia is involved in cellular communication, thermoregulation, and circulation, and is our richest sensory organ with 10 times more sensory nerve endings than muscles.
OK, so, fascia is pretty amazing but why should you care about it?
Because of fascia’s intricate networking throughout the body and its extensive sensory capacity, it can be responsible for pain; even in areas far away from an actual area of injury. If a muscle, tendon or bone is injured, so too is the fascia, or at the very least, it will be restricted. Fascia can also respond to movement, emotions, and postural patterns. Think of a sweater made from one continuous ball of yarn. If there is a snag or disruption in one part, the tension of the whole sweater changes.
The good news is that fascia is changeable!
There are lots of techniques to remodel and optimize your fascial system. You can do self-release with various tools and movements that glide, support and hydrate the fascia in different ways. Changing habitual patterns that can create injury—such as a forward head position—also remodel the fascia. Just as faulty patterns or positions take time to develop, it takes time for your fascia to adapt to new positions. These new positions can feel foreign because the receptors telling your body where it is in space are accustomed to the old position. Adequate sleep, hydration, good nutrition, and healing thoughts are also important for fascial health and to help support the body as it is reorganizing.
How can I optimize my fascia?
Here is a list of movements you can do today to start creating changes in how you feel. Make sure to stay in a range that feels comfortable and have fun with it.
Bounce like a spring. Put on some music and bounce! When you land on the ball of your foot, you build elasticity into the fascial system and tendons within and surrounding your foot. This is gentle, fun bouncing where you are relaxed and using minimum effort—just let your body move. You can even leave your feet on the floor and bounce with your body.
Swinging movements like a pendulum. Swing your leg, your body or your arms rhythmically just like a pendulum. Imagine a smooth movement and think of ease and fun. If you work at a desk, try standing and gently swinging your leg in a comfortable range with low effort—let the momentum drive the motion, not the muscles. Then, compare how your hip and leg feel relative to your other “unswung” leg. This is great first thing in the morning to prime your body for the day.
Perform whole body movements or multiple muscle movements in different planes, rather than repetitive exercises in one plane. So much of what we do is in the same plane. Mixing it up incorporates more fascial connections.
If you are doing strengthening exercises, try varying the load and tempo. This changes the structure and other aspects of the fascia.
Because your fascia includes your skin, stimulate your skin. This can be rubbing, brushing, tapping or stretching, which can help with proprioception (a term for sensing where your body is in space an important component to avoiding falls and bumping into things).
Next time you perform a task, go out for a walk, workout, or train for a sport, consider your fascia—it is everywhere you are!
If you have questions about how Ergology can help you, or any comments about what information you are curious about please reach out.