Fascia is connective tissue – it holds the pieces-parts of the body together. You’ve seen it if you’ve ever handled raw, bone-in chicken. If you take a whole chicken and pull off the skin, you’ll see the thin, glossy looking fascia underneath. It connects the skin to the muscles and you’ll be able to see more of it if you try to separate two distinct muscles from one another. Fascia wraps each muscle and sits between the skin and the muscles. I imagine it as the body’s internal Saran Wrap.
Not only does this chicken-skin-stuff sit underneath your skin, but it wraps every internal organ, every gland, every bone, every nerve, every tendon, every ligament, every muscle, and every muscle fiber. Fascia wraps your body up, gives it a shape and allows movement all at the same time. It’s as if you’ve got cling wrap holding every muscle, body and tissue in place. The problem is that fascia responds to overuse and injury just like every other tissue in the body.
I just found a wonderful article about fascia and how it creates pain the body. Fascia, just like other connective tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons) can be injured or impaired. Because all of this tissue interconnects, and travels all different directions in the body, an injury in one place can translate into discomfort, pain or weakness to other parts of the body. It’s as if you’ve wrapped your body into a solid figure by knitting or weaving all the different parts of you together. A snag or pull in one place can translate to another area.
This article talks about specific ways in which these Myofascial Adhesions can create issues in the body:
You may feel tingling or cold extremities due to poor blood circulation and/or nerve impingements. You may feel extreme tightness or lack flexibility in certain muscles while having extreme pain or pulling sensations in counteracting muscles. Knots develop over time known as Trigger Points. And then there is the ultimate myofascial adhesion, scar tissue.
The more I work on clients, the more I see the importance of fascia because it gives kinetic energy a path to travel through the body. The body is a complicated system of pulleys (muscles and tendons), levers (bones) and joints (ligaments) that allows movement. Although it’s the muscles changing shape that drives movement, the myofascial system helps direct the force through the tissues of the body. It spreads kinetic energy from movement up and down the body, enabling us to move smoothly and proceed from one movement to the next by directing force across the tissue.
Injuries, either from overuse, bad posture or microtears in the tissue heal, but they also create small adhesions as they do. These adhesions change the way the body moves, distributing force slightly differently. Severe injuries, surgery and the healing process from them also create adhesions. These adhesions can restrict range of movement, impinge blood vessels or nerves and change movement patterns.
The difficulty in healing from these injuries is that fascia needs movement to work itself out. Massage can help loosen the adhesions, but long-term injuries and fascial restrictions require movement, either through physical therapy or exercise to keep working on the adhesions that have been created. In some cases, fascial restrictions remain in place long after the original injury has healed, leaving residual pain and discomfort that may be hard to quantify to a medical professional.
The bottom line is this: All that stuff that holds you together and keeps you moving smoothly is fragile and it can get tangled up and snagged very easily. The best way to keep this from happening is to keep moving, exercise regularly and go to your doctor at the beginning of an injury rather than waiting weeks. The longer you wait, the more adhesions and fascial restrictions may set in. It’s better to be proactive and keep moving on the front end that to wait until you’ve got a chronic issues that requires a more extensive recovery period.