What does a forward head posture have to do with tight hamstrings? Did you know that restriction in your hip could be a hidden cause of your shoulder pain? No, this is not a Pop Quiz. It’s just that the “Back to School” fever has me inspired to touch on the topic of Fascia. Why Fascia?
In the past several months, I’ve talked about how the Pilates Method approaches alignment of the feet and of the spine. We’ve covered nutrition, and programs for core strength, as well as functional exercises. Most people look at fitness primarily in terms of muscles. However, little attention is given to the role of the other major tissues that comprise our body. That is, up until about the last 5-10 years. The technology available to anatomists has led to a greater understanding of this vital network, which is called Fascia.
As the opening questions suggest – the state and health of the body tissue we refer to as fascia has a huge impact on quality of life. Believe it or not, fascia, even more so than muscle tightness affects your true potential for movement in daily life and in sports performance. To delve more into the topic, I collaborated with Jordan Holwell, a licensed massage therapist. She provided her expertise with respect to manual treatment.
What is fascia? Fascia is the fascinating biological “fabric and glue” that holds us together. It is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web. Covering every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as all of our internal organs, the most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. It actually determines our structure and shape. So the saying “everything is connected” is literally true for our bodies!
What’s the difference between healthy and not-so-healthy fascia? Fascia has two different biochemical states: 1) “Gel” defined by a low hydration level which shortens fascia; it becomes adhered to surrounding layers of tissue and it feels dense and thick to the touch. 2) The other and more ideal state is “Sol.” Fascia begins to “sol” when the chemistry of fascia changes; it is better hydrated, becomes more elastic and easily stretches and lengthens.
How do we get those “knots” in our muscles and fascia? Trauma has cumulative effects on the body. I think we all recognize physical trauma in such things as a fall, whiplash, or surgery. But even habitual poor posture, repetitive stress injuries, and emotional trauma are just as much to blame. The scarring and inflammation result in fascia losing its pliability. It becomes “gel” – tight, restricted, and a source of tension pulling on the body’s structure. Thereby impacting our alignment, flexibility (range of motion), and stability. Side effects can be that of chronic pain and headaches. Many people suffer with such effects not realizing they are rooted in fascial problems. Often they go undiagnosed, because these changes aren’t detected by X-ray or CAT scan.
Can you share a time when you’ve helped correct fascial restrictions? Myofascial Release (also known as MFR) is a safe and very effective hands-on technique. It involves applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective-tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion. I had a client who had severe scar tissue from a hip replacement and suffered from chronic hip and leg pain. The scarring altered her balance, range of motion, and therefore her gait (how she walks). Within 15 minutes of applying MFR technique, she felt a rush of freeing “movement” to the underlying tissue and we heard an audible “pop.” Her entire low back, buttock, hip and leg relaxed and changed, creating the environment that would allow it to return to the “sol” state. She said the work we did “changed her life.”
Manual therapy and movement therapy go hand in hand. Once a severe restriction is freed, like with the client mentioned, you’ll discover an increased effectiveness in your workouts.
See you in the Studio!
Our thanks to Jordan Holwell, licensed massage therapist and the founder of Higher Energy Massage Therapy, a private studio in Naperville, IL. There, she seeks to help clients improve the quality of their lives from the inside out. At Higher Energy we provide a wide variety of massage services including traditional massage (Swedish massage, deep tissue massage and sports massage), children’s massage and energy work (cranial sacral therapy and Reiki sessions). Call 708-769-5634 for more information or to set up an appointment.