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What is fascia? Why is it so important?
Fascia is the webbed network of connective tissue surrounding your muscles, organs, and nerves, and connects everything together giving you your form. It touches all the systems in your body and will communicate through cell activity. Disturbances in the fascia can affect muscles, lymph, nerves, metabolic function, and emotions.
Do you see the white colored divisions and smaller spider like web in the grapefruit picture to the right? Now imagine the same thing in your body. Fascia is interwoven 3 dimensionally throughout all the tissues of our body. Think of it as your soft skeleton that is both fiber and fluid and highly innervated. Fascia is the body's largest sensory organ! It's dynamic and functional to provide stability and movement while it slides and glides on each other and the tissues around it.
It is important because if the fascia isn't healthy or doesn't move and glide appropriately, injuries, pain, decreased range of motion, body system dysfunction, or even cancer according to new research may result.
Biotensegrity and fascia operates from a different paradigm compared to biomechanics. Biomechanics suggests bones are the primary supportive structures creating lever and pulley systems for the muscles to move the body. However our bodies are living, biological tissues and those properties are much different than the properties of solid materials. Bio-tensegrity suggests fascia does most of the supportive work in the body allowing the bones to float in it and it creates “slings” and shape shifts for movement.
How do you treat fascia?
In some ways you can think of fascia as wearing a onsie like babies. Say the foot gets caught in the onsie, even though the foot maybe able to move there is tension somewhere else in the onsie making it perhaps hard for the baby to move their shoulder. By reorganizing the foot into the onsie properly, the shoulder is then free to move. Another example is to sit at the edge of your chair and raise your arm forward over your head while your pelvis is tilted forward, backward, and in neutral. Notice how far your can move your arm overhead is determined by the pelvis position. This is why working on the pelvis and hips can improve shoulder motion.
Whether or not you see someone for fascial intervention, there are some great ways to care for your fascia and these are often "homework" exercises for those currently in treatment.
Nutrition and hydration. "You are what you eat." Our bodies are made of 70% water, which surround the fibers, cells, and other major players in fascia. If we didn't have fascia the water would pool to our feet! As water flows around in this fascia space, it helps transport nutrients to the cells. And obviously hydration is good for more than just your fascia, so drink water!
Movement. Walking, exercising, swimming, anything other than staring at a screen! Additionally, vary your movements, which means take frequent breaks from the computer by getting up and walking around or doing neck and shoulder movements, but this also means vary your exercise routine. Why do you think sport specialization is frowned upon by doctors? They do the same sport/movement for long periods of time and to not rest appropriately! Rest is not a 4 letter word!
We are still learning a lot about fascia because it has been a very difficult tissue to study in the past because this connective tissue does not appear on MRI or Xray, but new diagnostic technology and sophisticated imaging techniques are allowing researchers to dive deeper into its structure and function.
Check out this video about fascia. Very thorough summary!
Check out this article on fascia by the Washington Post. It's exciting that more people are talking about it!
Links to more information on fascia