Fascia doesn’t get the attention it deserves. This web-like connective tissue, not only surrounds every tissue in the body, it encases the entire body itself. Fascia keeps the body symmetrical and in alignment. It’s also intricately connected to the autonomic nervous system. In fact, all organs, glands, cell, nerves, and vessels within this system are wrapped in fascia. Distortions in fascia can cause a range of problems, including sore, achy muscles, reduced blood flow, cellulite, and increased risk of injury. What is tight fascia and how do you relieve it?
Fascia is comprised of tough layers of fibrous-connective tissue, and is found throughout the human body. You know that thick, white, membrane that covers a chicken breast – the one that resembles plastic wrap? That’s fascia. It’s located just beneath the skin – it’s function is to attach, stabilize, and separate muscles and other internal organs.
Think of fascia kind of like a spider’s web that encases your whole body. These densely-packed collagen fibers permeate muscles, bones, nerves, organs, and even blood vessels. Fascia, is possibly, the most misunderstood system of the body.
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What Is Tight Fascia?
Fascia is a vital component of the musculoskeletal system. Because it’s so pervasive throughout the body, dysfunctional fascia can affect general well-being. Fascia that has thickened and become hard, has the potential to impair mobility, cause pain, and interfere with nerve transmission. Conversely, healthy fascia is linked to stability, flexibility, and resiliency. When it’s functioning properly, fascia is smooth, supple, and slides easily, allowing for full-range of motion.
What causes fascia to lose its flexibility and shape? Trauma, sports injuries, accidents, surgery, over-training, and even childbirth, can all cause distortions in fascia. Poor posture and lack of consistent movement are also implicated in fascia becoming sticky and less pliable.
Chronic repetitive movements can result in fascial tissue becoming locked into unhealthy patterns, leading to limited range of motion and pain. Stress also affects the integrity of fascia, causing the fibers to thicken and inhibit movement. All these conditions create the perfect storm for fascial adhesions to form, which can lead to stiffness and discomfort.
Common Conditions Associated With Fascia Dysfunction
The conditions below can all be the result of tight, restricted fascia. When this unhealthy web of fibrous tissue is no longer stretchy and elastic, adhesions and scar tissue can build-up.
Healthy fascia should resemble a wet sponge that can be twisted and squeezed without breaking. Unhealthy fascia, on the other hand, is like a dry, brittle sponge that begins to fall apart when manipulated. Normally-functioning fascia is arranged in a parallel design, with membranes that are flat and smooth.
When fascia is injured, the fibers are no longer parallel to each other, but run in every direction. Instead of lying flat, like a piece of paper, fibers are crumpled, tight and tangled, restricting movement, impairing posture, and even leading to joint degeneration
- Plantar Fascitis
- Myofascial Pain Syndrome
- Hypermobility of the joints
- Frozen Shoulder
- IT Band Syndrome
- Cellulite and stretch marks
Everything In The Body Is Connected
Most of us aren’t familiar with fascia and its importance to overall health. Fascia is kind of like the GI system – you don’t know it’s there until it acts up. Think of it this way – the human body is shrink-wrapped in this amazing connective tissue that is responsible for maintaining harmony and homeostasis.
When disruptions occur, repercussions can be felt in areas far removed from the original injury. Constricted fascia in one area of the body can have far-reaching effects on other tissues in the body, causing a ripple-effect of discomfort, decreased circulation, inhibited nerve impulses, and limited flexibility, even in areas that weren’t themselves injured. This ripple-effect is due to the fascial line that connects various parts of the body – for instance, the wrist, elbow, and shoulder are all connected.
Tight, inflexible fascia has a direct effect on the muscular system. Since fascia is a three-dimensional tissue, its doesn’t just wrap around muscles, but runs directly through them. Fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are intricately connected. Lack of movement cements once-pliable fibers into place. Stress that has become chronic can cause fascial fibers to thicken in order to protect the underlying muscles.
As you can see, just going through the motions of normal life can cause fascia to become inflexible and ingrained into certain patterns. A lack of flexibility, repetitive movements, and poor posture all factor into adhesion-formation, which can take some work to get rid of.
Fascial Damage Can Be Reversed
Sing it from the rooftops – fascial damage can be reversed, and future injury prevented by implementing healthy lifestyle strategies that we should all be doing anyway.
- Consistent exercise: Move regularly to prevent sticky adhesions to form that limit range of motion and cause pain.
- Daily stretching: Tight muscles cause fascia to become rigid, leading to compressed nerves and muscles. Stretching also keeps the fascia hydrated.
- Manage stress: Engage in activities that are relaxing, such as, long walks, saunas, and relaxing baths. Stress alters the pH in the body, causing tissues to contract.
- Use a fascia blaster: Use this technique to release adhesions. You can also use it on your face.
- Foam rolling and massage: Roll out your muscles to relieve tight muscles and tension. Massage also works wonders on tight fascia.
- Myofascial therapy: Restore natural elasticity to rigid fascia.
- Drink more water: Fascia is composed of water so stay hydrated to keep it lubricated. Coffee, soda, and wine are all dehydrating – drink in moderation.
- Apply heat: Saunas and warm baths can relax tight fascia to ease pain and tension.
- Proper nutrition: Supply your body with adequate nutrition so it can function properly. Toxins negatively affect fascia so ditch toxic, chemical-laden food.
Don’t ignore the signals your body sends. Listen to what its saying and respect its messages. If you’re experiencing pain, take time off from your usual exercise routine, and opt for gentle stretching instead.
With our stressful, sedentary lifestyles it’s no wonder conditions associated with unhealthy fascia are common. Fascia is the tissue that holds the human body together so disruptions in its function will lead to a number of symptoms and imbalances. If you have a nagging injury you suspect is related to distorted fascia, follow the tips above to restore your fascia to functional levels.
Do you have any of the conditions above? Have you learned something you didn’t know about fascia? Let me know in the comments:)