This month we are highlighting fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue that runs along every surface of the body, encasing the organs, muscles, and other soft tissue like a sausage casing or the sections of an orange—where each large and tiny segment of juice is held together by a sleek, thin film. So the muscles themselves are encased, but so is each muscle fiber. Fascia is everywhere in our body. There are different types of fascia in your body that serve different purposes.
Fascia helps us move. It helps make us glide so that when we move our skin, tendons, and muscles don’t stick to all our other parts. Each part can slither smoothly alongside each other. Fascia can help the muscles do their job. When healthy fascia remains springy (for lack of a better word) in movement, the muscles can use less energy and won’t fatigue as quickly because the fascia takes some of the burden of force and helps the body return to its “normal” shape. Fascia is your friend for all kinds of movement.
Recently it was “discovered” that a particular type of fascia is very likely an organ. They have named it interstitium (pronounced: inter-stich-e-um). It is a continuous, fluid-filled space between the muscles, organs, and circulatory system. And they think understanding it better may help them understand how cancer and other diseases spreads. Perhaps, just like the way we draw blood now to learn about our health and disease, we might be able to draw the interstitial fluid and learn about diseases quicker. There is some very promising research in your fascia!
Just some of the reasons you should care about fascia.
So that’s what fascia is. Here’s just some of the ways it affects regular folk.
Most of us have heard of plantar fasciitis. It’s when the band of fascia that runs along the base of the foot is inflamed and angry. Stepping out of bed can be agonizing. However there are a lot of stretches and exercises you can do that can help. And the earlier you catch it, the better. So if you notice a pain in your foot, pay attention.
In your lower back you have a thick section of fascia. Much like the plantar fascia in foot pain, this can be the culprit in back pain. Drinking water at regular intervals throughout the day can be helpful because fascia needs to stay hydrated. Massage can help. Regular, appropriate moving can help. Sitting less is also beneficial. But next time you back hurts, consider your fascia.
When you get a scar, you see a raised line or bump on your skin. But that scar goes deeper than we can see and can hinder the layers of fascia beneath. If fascia (or anything in the body) is stiff and scarred, it can inhibit movement. That inhibition often spreads farther in the body over time. Once healed, rubbing the area around a scar (if there is no pain) is thought to be beneficial in trying to break up scar tissue and maintaining better movement patterns.
When and what you feel is largely due to nerve endings in your fascia. It is believed that you have about 6 times more sensory nerve endings in your fascia than in your muscles. They used to think it was 10 times more, but the number has dropped, so look for changes in this as they learn more. But it is believed your fascia provides you a lot of sensation throughout the body.
And most recently, with this new discovery, look to your fascia to be a mechanism to find out more information about your health even faster
Move Your Fascia
The video below shows two ways to do a cat stretch. One is the way we are all used to doing it. The other adds a little movement. Adding more flowing movements like this seems to target the fascia more. Maybe that’s why it feels extra good!
Thank you for giving your time to stop and read my blog. I hope it encourages you to keep moving. Move and the body will be happier. And when you're moving you can hike, run, swim in Jell-O, race over non-Newtonian fluids, travel the world or build igloos--if that's your thing. If not, you can watch me do it. This is just a spot to try and feel good about life.