The webbing that holds us together
Have you ever taken a piece of chicken and tried to remove the skin? Noticed the opaque webbing that attaches the skin to the meat? That's fascia. And just like chickens, we have it everywhere in our bodies.
An intricate web of connective tissue, fascia wraps around our internal organs, muscles, and bones. We can find it directly underneath our skin as well as deep inside us. It allows our muscles to freely move while at the same time provides internal structure. What used to be thought of as unnecessary in our bodies has now been discovered to hold nerves, blood vessels, and serve a vital function in literally keeping our bodies together. And the nerves housed inside the fascia? They cause our fascia to be almost as sensitive as our skin is. So much for being irrelevant.
Healthy fascia is smooth, flexible, and slippery. It's meant to glide, allowing muscles to move freely and without friction. Unhealthy fascia becomes thicker and bound together, forming fascial adhesions.
As an analogy, imagine you're putting on pantyhose. They're firm, which holds things in place, but the legs are still easily moveable. This would be what healthy fascia is like. Now think of putting on a pair of pantyhose that were soaked in watered-down Elmer's glue before you put them on. As the pantihose dry on your body, they become less pliable, don't glide across your skin, and decrease your range of motion. This is similar to what unhealthy fascia is like.
So what causes fascia to become unhealthy? One obvious reason is trauma to an area, which can be due to an injury or from having a surgery. Another reason fascia gets bound up and ticked off is from a repetitive movement that might overwork one area of the body. The opposite can also have a negative impact on your fascia: If your lifestyle includes limited physical movement every day, your fascial web will begin to stick together, reducing your range of motion, and possibly (probably) cause you pain.
Often our fascial adhesions become worse over time, creating a cascade of crankiness in our bodies. As the adhesions worsen, they can begin to compress the muscles that they're surrounding, creating knots in the muscles themselves. And as for pain and restriction, tight fascia is right there alongside the pain and other sensations associated with tight muscles. So the next time you feel a muscle is tight, it might actually be from the fascia rather than the muscle itself. (Okay, to get technical, many believe that muscles are actually groups of fascia bundles, if you will, which slightly changes my point. But you get the idea.)
Keeping our fascia healthy is really important and has immense benefits. You'll have improved range of motion and less pain, both of which will help you move throughout your life much easier. Since our fascia is like a big piece of shrink wrap in our bodies, it's important to treat the whole as well as the isolated problem area. Ways to make your fascia happy include incorporating more varied movements in your daily routine (like stretching, dancing, yoga, and walking), eating an anti-inflammatory diet (check out my previous post about that here), and using different myofascial release techniques to restore the natural elasticity to the fascia.
A ginormous way I'm physically helping out my fascia issues is by using my FasciaBlaster every day. These are plastic tools designed to break up the fascial adhesions, and they're making a huge freaking impact on my body. Also, side note, they'll help with reducing cellulite, which is just a symptom of unhealthy fascia.
If you're a visual person like me, you'll appreciate the graphic below to illustrate that I'm talking about.
On my recent Facebook Live I talked about some of this as well as did a demo of what I'm doing to help replenish my fascia, which also drastically reduces my pain levels. Click here to check out that post. Not only have I noticed a difference in my body, but in using their own FasciaBlasters, so have my daughter, one of my besties, my sister, and my mom. In fact, my mom has limited range of motion in her left arm after her stroke several years ago. While I was visiting her for two weeks back in July, she used my FasciaBlaster daily. Before I left, she could move her shoulder in ways that she hasn't been able to since before her stroke. When I say this tool works, I'm not exaggerating. If you're interested in getting a FasciaBlaster of your own, here's a link to their products. Remember, I only recommend things that have totally improved my quality of life, and this is absolutely one of them.
Now it's your turn. Think about what you can do in your life, today, that will benefit your fascia enough that your future self thanks you, then go out there and do it!