The Feeding and Care of Your Fascia
by Eric Winder, DC
“Doc, if fascia was making my back hurt, how can I keep it healthy now that I’m feeling better?” I hear this question in one form or another on a regular basis. Patients, who experience relief when problems in their fascia (connective tissue) are resolved, want to know how to prevent those same problems from recurring. This is an excellent question that I am always thrilled to answer, considering the importance of fascia to optimal health.
Fascia is the fibrous tissue that comprises 20% of the body and helps to reinforce your muscles, protect your organs and generally hold you together. It also produces you most important sense called proprioception, or position sense, which allows you to have coordinated motion and correct posture and joint alignment. If your fascia is restricted, then it impairs your functioning. To maintain its health is a vital part of self-care.
Nourish your fascia
A nutritious, low-inflammatory diet is ideal for your fascia. In addition to eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals, it is also recommended to avoid eating too many foods that promote inflammation. The major culprits are grains—especially wheat—so reducing the consumption of bread, pasta, cereal and other grain products can minimize the tendency toward inflammation in the body. Decreasing the ingestion of saturated fats and increasing leafy greens is also beneficial. In turn, the decreased inflammation helps the fascia remain more pliable and supple.
One nutrient that is vital to fascia is water. When living fascia is seen under a microscope, there are beads of water clinging to its fibers. Adequate hydration is vital for fascia to be properly lubricated and flexible. Also, in several types of fascia, there are microscopic spaces that allow water to flow through the fascia. This is likely important for removing waste products.
It is not necessary to drink eight eight-ounce glasses on a daily basis for most people, although this amount is often promoted. However, a helpful benchmark is to drink water in enough quantity so that your urine is pale or colorless. It is especially important to hydrate before exercising or participating in strenuous activities.
Use It or Glue It
For this connective tissue to remain supple and flexible, movement is absolutely imperative. I am particularly fond of yoga for maintaining fascia health due to the gentle, slow stretches that promote flexibility. In general, many forms of stretching are helpful, as the joints and muscles need to move in different directions to keep the body pliable. Long, sustained stretches or harsh stretches that “burn” are not necessary and could actually restrict the fascia. Whereas gentle, repetitive stretches that last only a few seconds can promote flexibility in a safe manner.
Another aspect of motion which is important to fascia is exercise that tones or strengthens. Generally, exercise that builds strength in muscles will also strengthen fascia. The main consideration here is simply to increase the intensity of exercises gradually because muscle can strengthen quicker than fascia. Doing too much too soon can traumatize fascia and cause a buildup of restriction.
You can also keep fascia supple through massage therapy. Forms of massage that use kneading or stretch the muscles also stimulate the fascia to promote flexibility, hydration and detoxification. Several of my patients schedule with our massage therapists for wellness care that combines massage and fascia therapy to keep their tissues healthy.
Part of maintain fascia health is simply to avoid harm. Factors that increase stiffness and decrease flexibility in fascia include stress, lack of sleep, and physical activities that cause repetitive stress or over-activity that strains tissues. Quality sleep and stress management are ideal for more than healthy fascia. So avoid strenuous activities when you are either fatigued or highly stressed because decreased resilience in fascia can make you more prone to an injury.
Minimizing repetitive stress is common sense. If there are physical activities that you must repeat often enough to cause pain or discomfort, then you need to make adjustments so the pain doesn’t continue. An example of this would be setting your computer mouse to be less sensitive, so you have to move it farther to navigate the cursor on the computer screen. This reduces the micro-motions that keep muscles constantly tight, and can lead to shoulder or wrist pain.
Finally, when it comes to preventing injuries, it is important to remain fit at a level that allows you to participate in the activities you take pleasure in. For instance, if you engage Pickle Ball twice a month, but don’t practice any other form of exercise in between, the sudden bursts of activity can strain your muscles, tendons and ligaments. This can result in restricted fascia, long after the strains heal. Regular exercise to build fitness that supports your most vigorous or strenuous activities protects you from those “weekend warrior” injuries.
Even when practicing all the right habits like eating nutritiously, hydrating, stretching and remaining in shape, most of us still accumulate restrictions in the fascia. When these become significant enough, they can start to cause pain and stiffness just about anywhere in the body. Fortunately, fascial restrictions respond well to the right kinds of treatment. At our office, we use gentle, specific treatment methods that restore restricted fascia back to a healthy and pliable state. This allows the joints and muscles to function optimally, relieving pain or stiffness.
You are invited to attend an evening program on March 27, where you can learn in-depth about fascia, why it is important, and how to solve fascia problems when they create pain or issues like headaches. Dr. Eric Winder will discuss case examples, provide a treatment demonstration and hold a Q&A session following the presentation. Attendees are invited to arrive at 6:45 p.m. for refreshments, and the program itself will take place from 7–8 p.m. This free event is located at 3131 S Tamiami Trail, #102, Sarasota. To RSVP, call 941-957-8390. Dr. Eric Winder has 21 years in practice, and focuses on relieving pain and restoring alignment and motion through fascia release therapies without forceful manipulation. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.
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