Even more than muscles, fascia is a highly underrated component of our health and function and deserves far more attention and care than it currently gets. Fascia is often described as cobweb-like tissue that holds everything together. To be more specific, it is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that forms a continuous, three-dimensional matrix of support throughout the entire body. Fascia permeates and compartmentalizes all muscles, bones, organs, and nerve fibers, although, depending on what structure the fascia is surrounding, it may have a specific name.
In Latin, Fascia means "band" or "bundle". In addition to holding everything in place, fascia must allow the contents of the body to glide freely as the muscles lengthen and shorten and as the body twists, bends, and turns. Fascia is highly innervated and is also primarily responsible for proprioception ( the body's awareness of all of its parts and their spacial movement and position). When dysfunction exists in the fascia, it can cause pain disorders, restricted movement, decreased proprioceptive ability, structural imbalances, and some neurological disorders. Needless to say, it is important to take care of your fascial tissue if you want to function properly and pain free. A sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, dehydration, injury or overuse of muscles, poor diet, poor sleep quality, and too much stress are all ways to cause distortions within the fascial tissue.
The founder of the Fascial Distortion Model, Dr. Stephen Typaldos, identified six types of distortions with distinct characteristics. Some feel deep, some have a burning or pulling sensation, some are easy to pinpoint, and others are vague or feel like they are in the joint. However, even before Dr. Typaldos identified these distortions and how best to treat them, it was known that distortions in fascial tissue would cause an omnidirectional pull on surrounding tissue causing a chain reaction of dysfunction ( as mentioned in the "muscle knot" blog post). This can be visualized using the common example of tugging one point of a bed sheet and seeing how it pulls and crinkles the rest of the sheet. Now imagine that on a three-dimensional plane and you have fascia.
The most important thing you can do for your fascial maintenance is to get quality manual therapy on a regular basis ( once a month minimum). Other things to improve fascial health include stretching, drinking water when thirsty and avoiding alcohol and cigarettes, foam rolling, sauna and cryotherapy, and aerobic exercise.
Hopefully this post helps you better understand fascia and its importance to your health!
Thanks for reading!
Alan Nicely, LMT