Myofascia – It’s fascia-nating!!
You may have heard me speak of the fascia (myofascia) during a massage treatment. We are going to dive deep into this amazing, webbed world:
What is fascia?
The fascial network is a beautiful, crystal like, three-dimensional, spider’s web structure that is ever-flowing and uninterrupted. It encompasses the entirety of the body, connecting our superficial skin layer to the deepest tissues within us.
- It connects our physicality to our physiology.
- It connects our toes to the top of our head.
- It is our connective tissue.
- It can be broken down into the superficial fascia, the deep fascia and the myofascia (‘Myo’ is Latin for muscles and ‘Fascia’ for Band).
- It is an elasto-collagenous matrix that is continuous and allows us to move and be kept in posture.
- It enables us to have a high degree of flexibility combined with being super, duper powerful and resilient to overstretching.
- It has a superb memory and we each have our own unique fascial fingerprint; memories and restrictions within the fascia can be stored from birth.
- It is our hydraulic shock absorber and enables the body to cope with load bearing, like gravity and mechanical stress.
- In its truest form, well hydrated and well looked after, it is fluid, dynamic to stress and powerful, allowing us to be in tip-top holistic health.
What is fascia made of?
The fascia is made up of a matrix of:
Elastin – an elastic protein fibre that allows for stretching and contraction, it is what allows our skin to bounce back to it normal shape. It has a load-bearing role.
Collagen – an inelastic protein fibre is the main component of our connective tissue. It has tensile properties, thus it is incredibly strong but allows a small amount of give.
Ground substance – this is a viscous gel that should be fluid and freely moving in. It has a similar character to wallpaper paste in that on impact in coagulates. When impact is traumatic (physically or emotionally) the ground substance hardens further and collagen and elastin fibres move closer together, as a result restriction occurs.
What is the role of fascia?
- The fascia encompasses and infuses every tissue in the body; our muscles, tendons, ligaments, organs, bones.
- It supports, separates and cushions all living cells in the body.
- It keeps our cells alive.
- It is dynamic.
- It protects us and responds to internal and external forces, acting as our shock absorber, responsible for proprioception and stabilization; our anti-gravity system.
- It has its very own nervous, lymphatic and circulatory supply and is a communicational system for the body. It is a messenger system.
Thus, when fascia is restricted and becomes bound it has an effect on our complete health, affecting not just muscular and skeletal health, but nerve capacity, gland and organ function and our general well being.
“It is now recognised that the fascial network is one of our richest sensory organs. The surface area of this network is endowed with millions of endomysial sacs and other membranous pockets with a total surface area that by far surpasses that of the skin or any other body tissues. Interestingly, compared with muscular tissue’s innervation with muscles spindles, the fascial element of it is innervated by approximately 6 times as many sensory nerves than its red muscular counterpart.” Robert Schleip – Fascia as an organ of communication.
What is fascial restriction?
Fascia is restricted due to various reasons, such as incorrect posture, trauma (physical and emotional), surgery, and lack of, or repetitive, movement; to name just a few.
It dehydrates, becoming a sticky matted mess of a web, shortening and hardening (Just like a muscular ‘knot’). As a consequence, extra tension is further placed on adjacent structures, such as joints, organs, and ligaments; more collagen fibres then lay down to help deal with the strain. The density of the hardened fascia increases (The ‘knot’ gets bigger).
Poor posture is the most common cause of fascia restrictions and plays an integral role in joints stiffening up and causing a trapped nerve
One restriction can lead to another.
Restricted fascia can cause aches and pains, imbalance and mind, body, and soul discomfort. Fascia restrictions come hand in hand with trapped nerves, which is why Chiropractic and Massage work so well together. It can also affect the efficient flow of blood and lymph, thus slowing down our bodies own healing power.
Surgery for example creates scar tissue. Scar tissue is a restriction. It acts as a rigid barrier within the fascial web, compressing nerves/blood vessels, inhibiting movement and restricting a fluid passage way. The result of scar tissue may manifest in physiological or physical dysfunction.
Myofascial release aims to restore these restrictions within the body and has been found to melt away scar tissue. The release can be quite profound. Due to the fascia’s immense memory we can hold restrictions in our body for a long time without knowing.
Restoring the fascia back to its truest and happiest from can create a huge positive shift both physical and mentally.
How can you make fascia happy?
Eat well! Drink up!
Our fascia requires lots of water and a healthy, well balanced diet. Bad nutrition and not enough water will affect not only your fascia but as a consequence your musculoskeletal system, your skin and other organ and gland functioning. So make sure you get your sufficient daily demand of joy juice.
Take time out! Rest makes us stronger.
“Rest is how the tissues rehydrate… The rhythm [of your fitness regimen] should include some rest… When you take the strain off of the tissues, like a sponge they will suck up that water and be ready for more exercise.” Tom Myers, The Anatomy Train.
Sports massage, soft/deep tissue release, and certain myofascial release techniques have been found to melt away tension within the fascia. It is never too late to energize dehydrated, hardened, sticky fascia back into its natural free and fluid form. Once the fascia is re-engaged, it has the capacity to aid our body’s own restorative nature; as a result our muscles work more efficiently.
As a neurosensory organ the fascial network is also affected by your chiropractic adjustments. As the fascia contorts the spine it misaligns the vertebrae, and as vertebrae move out of position and irritate the adjacent nerve they restrict the fascia.
Get moving!!! Take time to stretch!
The physical and emotional wellbeing benefits of Yoga are linked to our fascia – it is a holistic bodywork practice that through traction and slow stretching enables sticky fascia to melt into it’s favourite 3D fluid form. Anyone can take up yoga no matter how flexible you think you ‘have’ to be. I thoroughly recommend it! Yin yoga in particular is aimed at myofascial release.
It is more than lying down on a treatment table, it is about actively engaging in your own personal well being also. Positively investing in your body piggy bank. This means staying sufficiently hydrated, moving often, resting, stretching and mindfully using your body; mentally and physically.
We as therapists aim to create a positive change and kick start your own restorative power, it is your role, to make that change, the norm.
This is some simple information. More and more research is being conducted into the relevance, significance and vitality of the fascia and into ways of restoring it. Science is proving its enormity in bodywork. It will become bodywork fashion!
Without the fascia we would be a floppy mess unable to live life, unable to love life and unable to see light.
If your fascia is healthy and happy, you are more likely to be healthy and happy too.
“Enjoy your body, use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.” Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s free (to wear sunscreen)