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ExerciseWellnessYour Body’s Least Known System – and How it Affects You (Part Two)

Your Body’s Least Known System – and How it Affects You (Part Two)

In Part One of this article, we introduced you to fascia, the least known system in the human body. Fascia maintains the correct position of your individual muscle fibers, blood vessels and nerves within the muscles. It keeps them in place when your muscles are moving.

Yet, as previously discussed, fascia is seldom taken into consideration by physicians. Wikipedia lists ten systems of the body: cardiovascular/circulatory, digestive, endocrine, integumatary/exocrine (skin, hair, nails, sweat glands), lymphatic, musculoskeletal, nervous, renal, reproductive, and respiratory. The fascial system is not even mentioned.

One of the reasons fascia has received too little attention in the medical world is that there is no good way to image it. Fascia does not show up on even the most technologically advanced diagnostic imaging, such as MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Yet fascia plays a significant role in joint stability, coordination, joint motion, flexibility and proprioception (your ability to sense and direct the movements of your own body).

Over time, the flexibility, shape and texture of your fascia is compromised by lack of activity, chronic stress, poor posture, repetitive movements and injury. The original linear pattern of the tissue is damaged. Adhesions form in the stuck and damaged fibers, and areas of rigidity are created. Fortunately, damage to your fascia is reversible.

Here are some of the ways to care for your fascia:

Move regularly: Sticky adhesions in the fascia form when you don’t move enough. You can prevent them by stretching thoroughly, every day, head to toe. Stretch all your muscles, and stretch your fascia by holding gentle stretches for three to five minutes at a time.

Stay lubricated: Every part of your body needs water to be healthy, and that includes your fascia. Drink lots of fluids.

Relax: Soak fifteen to twenty minutes in a warm bath with Epsom salts. Follow with ten minutes of light activity.

Respect your body – Don’t rush to move through an injury. If you push through, your fascia will respond to the changes in your underlying mechanics. When you heal, you could maintain the same movement pattern, setting you up for subsequent injuries. Give your body the time it needs to get better.

Use the tools available: Massage and self-message can help on a superficial level, as can a foam roller. Bodywork expert Ashley Black has designed a tool for deeper work, which you can find here.

See a fascial specialist: if you have a nagging injury or chronic pain of any kind, look for a fascial or myofascial therapy specialist. You may need to do some research, as there are different therapies and methods. Some physical therapists, massage therapists, and chiropractors are beginning to specialize in fascia, so ask around.

Investigate movement education: The Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique are both ways to protect your fascia. They are often used by dancers and gymnasts. They employ light touch and simple exercises to reduce the unconscious destructive movement patterns that can damage your fascia.

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