Fascia is a web-like system of connective tissue that spans throughout your entire body. It wraps around and compartmentalizes each of your individual internal body parts…muscles, organs, bones, nerves and blood vessels.
Fascia keeps all of our structures separate and allows them to move freely between each other through movements. Fascia provides support and protection, and it is involved in every movement you make, and every injury you have ever had.
When fascia is healthy it is smooth and slides freely, which allows for easy, unrestricted movement. Unfortunately, fascia can get tight just like our muscles. Many things can lead to this tightness, and thickening of our fascia. Lack of activity of an area can cause your fascia to ‘lock down’, and become almost cement-like. A good example of this would be after having shoulder surgery. Most often post-op, the arm must be held in a sling, and not be moved for an extended period of time. Fibers of fascia are continuously laid down in this area of injury. Once the area has healed enough so that movement can occur, it is sometimes too tight, and painful for the person to move the arm. The fascia has just become too thick, and restricted. This particular condition is called “frozen shoulder”, but it can happen anywhere in the body if we restrict movement.
Overuse, repetitive motions, and chronic stress can also cause tightness in the area due to increased fibers laid down in this ingrained pattern. Adhesions within the fascia can form, which can be painful and tough to get rid of.
Trauma, such as a car accident injury, causes these fibrous tissues to be increased in the area of injury of protection. It can take awhile for these restrictions to be worked through with treatment because it is always the bodies job to protect our vital structures. In a traumatic event, the body will do whatever it can in order to prevent the injury to happen again.
Overly tight fascia in one area of the body can also lead to pain, discomfort and restrictions in a completely different area. Compensation patterns can quickly develop. Sometimes these compensation patterns are due to the tight fascia, which then causes the pain elsewhere, or the person will start compensating because they have developed pain due to the tight fascia.
Through daily life, and injuries, we are going to develop these restrictions in our fascia, it’s inevitable. There are some things you can do that will help keep your fascia as healthy as possible, and maintained so that it doesn’t develop into a more serious injury.
Remember to MOVE. Sitting or standing for prolonged periods can allow adhesions to form. When you wake up in the morning, roll around a little in bed really stretching your body out. Get up and walk around, and stretch regularly when at work if you have to sit at a desk all day long.
Stay Hydrated. Just like everything else in our body, fascia is made up of water. It moves and works better when it is wet, so drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Stretch. Pretty self-explanatory with this one.
Foam Rolling. Self-myofascial release is becoming more and more popular as a tool to help keep our bodies flexible. You may have seen these long cylindrical pieces of foam at the gym, called foam rolls, where people are rolling out their hips, IT Bands, and pretty much any other area of the body. Make sure to go slow with this. Allow the tissues to soften and relax (don’t just roll back and forth vigorously over the area). Find an area of tension and hold this spot for about 30 seconds before moving onto the next one.
See a Myofascial Release Massage Specialist. This may be necessary if you are dealing with a lingering injury or pain that you just can’t work out on your own. Talk to your therapist about myofascial release, there are many different ways to perform it.