Fascia – it’s the new buzzword making the rounds in fitness and health circles of late and apparently it’s the secret to our fitness, flexibility and well-being. But does this Cinderella Tissue have a reputation it can’t live up to?
We asked registered osteopath, Pilates instructor and personal trainer Bill Adamson to demystify the body part many of us know very little about:
What is fascia?
Fascia is like a giant connective skin for our muscles, organs, arteries, veins and nerves. A very strong, resilient skin. Without fascia we’d be a big blob with bones sticking out, because it’s fascia that holds our muscles where they are and creates their shape.
Beyond creating shape and holding us together, fascia also connects certain muscles together. While our muscles finish when they attach to the bone, fascia is continuous and extends all over your body.
How long have we known about it?
Forever and for never.
For a really long time, doctors and anatomists didn’t look at fascia. Instead, they’d just chop away this inner skin like stuff so they could better show muscles, and nerves and arteries. In the late 1800’s osteopath Andrew Taylor Still was writing essays on the purpose and function of fascia, but fascial work never really got trendy outside the osteopathic community until today.
Does fascia affect flexibility?
Yes fascia affects flexibility, but it’s generally in conjunction with the muscles and the joints.
So it’s not the answer to all my physical woes?
Unfortunately not. One of the world’s leading fascial researchers Robert Schleip is quoted lamenting “the current trend among bodyworkers of attributing anything wonderful or astonishing to the properties of fascia.”
Yes fascia has been ignored by the mainstream for a long time, however it is not a cure all for musculoskeletal maladies.
How does fascia get injured?
Overworking the fascia is shown to increase your risk of central sensitisation, where the brain repeatedly receives information from the area you are ‘releasing’ that it has been injured. If you repeat the process the brain starts to think that this is permanent damage.
When you have a hole in your fascia it is called a hernia.
Are there some ideal activities to do to optimize the health of my fascia?
Movement. Move widely and in a variety of ways, loaded and unloaded, slowly and quickly. Try to vary what you do. Yoga is great, Pilates is great, going to the gym is great. Try these:
- If you love lifting weights 4 days a week, drop a day and do a stretch class or a Pilates class or a body balance class. If you love doing yoga 4 days a week, drop a day and lift weights once a week.
- Hot baths make your soul feel great and can decrease the tension you carry.
- Not too heavy massage is great.
Fascia isn’t that different from the rest of the stuff in your body. If you eat well, stress less, move more, go to bed when you’re tired, spend time with loved ones, get away when you need it, your fascia will feel good, but more importantly the rest of you will too.
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