Educator's Corner: Unwinding the Fascia
Did you know not all tension in the body comes from muscles? In fact, much of the tension experienced every day originates in a more superficial layer of soft tissue, the fascia. Surrounding individual muscle fibers, muscle groups, organs, and inner body systems, this connective tissue helps link together and protect the human body. Functioning much like Oobleck, in Dr. Suess' famous story "Bartholomew and the Oobleck", this non-Newtonian fluid is solid when immobile, such as when the body is asleep or injured, and enters a fluid, almost liquid, state when the body is engaged in moving, stretching, running, or massage.
Made up of 70% water, this tissue allows for signal conduction along nervous pathways, fluid movement between soft tissue fibers, and connection between muscles and body systems. When our bodies are dehydrated, stressed, sick, or otherwise dysfunctional, the fascia can become tense and brittle, trapping muscles, pinching nerves, and blocking or slowing down electrical signals throughout the body. Is your fascia blocking your optimal function? Stay tuned and we will explore ways to help with healing, movement, and function of the fascia.
Earlier, we talked about massage being a way to help the fascia move from a solid to a fluid state. In massage therapy modalities such as myofascial release, the therapist uses a series of light stretch and traction exercises to warm up the fascia, allowing it to return to a fluid state; releasing muscles, nerves, and organs that were trapped when the fascia was in a solid and immobile state.
Although beneficial, myofascial massage is not for everyone. Contraindications to myofascial massage may include aneurysm, acute rheumatoid arthritis, advanced diabetes, severe osteoporosis, healing fractures, or communicable disease. This blog is not a substitute for medical advice. Always be sure to consult with your health care team to determine if any new form of massage or exercise is safe for you.
Benefits to myofascial release include, but are not limited to: increase in mobility, increase in relaxation, increase in nervous system function, and increase in sense of overall well-being.
Let's Talk Structure
Just like muscles are grouped into different categories (hamstrings, quads, etc.) throughout the body, the fascia also is divided into 12 different segments that run throughout the body called fascial lines, or fascial meridians. These lines affect the movement of the organs, muscles, and joints around them and often run along common neurological pathways, helping to provide conduction for neurological signals throughout the body. Working along the fascial lines, whether in a massage session or using self-myofascial techniques, can help to increase flexibility and motion in the body while decreasing pain and tension.
What Can You Do?
Rolling slowly along the fascial lines and muscle groups helps the muscles and fascia to relax and return to a more homeostatic state. Remember fight or flight? Well, this technique allows the body to turn off flight or fight in a certain section of the body and turn on the rest, digest, and heal, or CNS portion of the nervous system. Below are a few simple exercises you could try at home:
Tennis Ball Trigger Point Release:
If you are holding tension in a smaller area that is more difficult to use the foam roller on, another alternative could be using a tennis ball to create movement or friction at one specific point on the body, as shown below:
Stretching the body
If you don’t have access to a tennis ball or foam roller, or these tools add too much pressure to your areas of tension, performing simple stretches such as these shown below, may be a great alternative for you.
Thank you for joining us on our journey through the fascial system of the body. We hope you have a little bit more appreciation for the saran wrap of the body, the fascia. More importantly, we hope you leave with a few simple ways to help add flexibility and mobility to your daily life. Join us next time as we explore more of the body. Questions or comments? Add them below or send us a message or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.