What is Fascia?
Fascia is the least known of all tissues and an organ in its own right! Fascia is becoming more understood but in the big picture it is still very new – this year will only be the fouth international fascial research conference, so there are many physical therapy modalities, chiropractors, medical practitioners, surgeons and doctors that still don’t understand or recognise fascia and its connection to joint, muscle, nerve issues and body pain. Fascia consists of tough sheets of connective fibers that envelop and weave through every muscle, nerve, and organ and ties our whole body together. It enables us to maintain correct posture, holds our organs in place, prevents muscles from tearing, and tethers tendons to bone, giving the muscles the mechanical stability they need to contract forcefully. If you think about an orange with all the juice tapped out, what you have left is the pulp and the fibrous webbing that separate the sections. All of this is just like fascia separating and connecting our body at the same time. A tough sausage casing holding in the sausage as well as joining all the sausages is another way to think about how fascia works within our bodies. It’s a continuous supporting network that goes top to toe. For muscles and joints to function properly, the fascia and nervous system must both be healthy. This means moist, soft, flexible fascia and nerves that send full-strength signals to the muscles. Injury, overuse, under-use accidents, surgeries and poor posture can all result in tight, restricted fascia that shuts off nerves, weakens muscles, restricts movement, and causes inflammation – and pain.
Fascia thickens and hardens where there is chronic tension.
Fascia holds imprints of our posture and old injuries. Like an old telephone cord that keeps springing back to where its been coiled up for a long time. All the nerves and blood vessels run through the fascia. Therefore, if the connective tissue is tight and restricted the associated tissues will have poor nutrient exchange. This intensifies any painful situation. Thickening and hardening of the fascia will limit mobility. A lot of conventional methods and therapies focus on the spot that hurts. This is a big reason why people don’t get better. The spot that hurts is just where the pain emanates. The actual problem can be well up the chain. Imagine a beach towel spread out from all corners. If you grab it in the middle and scrunch it up you will see it contract in many areas. This is like contracted, restricted fascia. If you pull on all ends of towel evenly it will straighten out. This is the focus of Myofascial stretching and through doing this the tissues really evens out. Another example is a jersey. If you are wearing a jersey and you pull on one end you will feel the jersey twist, tighten and restricted around many different areas. This is what happens if fascia is restricted, contracted and tight, this pulls joints out of optimal position, traps nerves and causes pain. These weird and funny looking positions are technical and specific to learn, but extremely self-empowering, therapeutic. Once learned, you can do from home, on holiday, your hotel room, gym or park,to enhance your sport, correct or maintain your posture and fix body problems. This method is powerful and effective! Fascial stretches focus on specific individual muscles but work by tethering the end points of a fascial chain.
Benefits of Myofasial Stretching
Myofascial stretching, when performed correctly, will stretch, loosen and rehydrate the tissue so it can be more supple, mobile and resilient. Eliminate body pain, correct posture, create postural strength, improve sports performance and general wellbeing, prevent re-occurring injuries and more. Regular movement of the fascia through these skilled exercises is very powerful indeed. Everyone can benefit from Myofascial stretching. Athletes especially need this work to even out fascial tissue that will keep twisting them up and pulling them around. This style of stretching can be learned one on one or in class situation.
Myofascial Stretching Presentation
View snippets of my Myofascial Stretching presentation at the Fitex (formerly Get NZ Active) Conference in 2011