Five Top Fascia Facts
by Eric Winder, DC
A lot of my patients share a specific frustration. They are thrilled with their treatment results, believe that fascia therapy is the next frontier in healthcare, and are fascinated with how it works. However, they often express their frustration at trying to explain the concept of fascia therapy to friends and loved ones. Fortunately, while the underlying concepts of fascia treatment can be a complicated subject, there a few facts which can summarize it precisely.
Fascia is fibrous connective tissue, and it literally holds us together. It wraps around every muscle and the bundles of muscle fiber inside of each muscle. It covers bones, blood vessels, organs and nerves. Even the brain and spinal cord are covered in fascia. It is interconnected with other fibrous tissues like tendons, ligaments and spinal discs. Altogether, fascia makes a giant, web-like network throughout the entire body. It is our structural fabric, in which every point is connected to every other point.
It’s a Sense Organ
Actually, that’s not quite accurate. Fascia is a tissue, not an organ. But it acts as the sensory organ for the most important sense we have in our body—position sense which is also known as proprioception. While this isn’t included in the familiar list of five senses that we all learned in school, it should be number one on a new list of six because we can’t live without it.
What is position sense? If you close your eyes, you can probably touch your finger to your nose, although you can’t see either one. With your eyes still closed, you can also probably scratch your knee or the back of your head. How do you know where these body parts are, even if you can’t see them?
The answer lies in approximately 40 million nerve endings which are embedded in the body’s fascia network. Just as the nerve endings in the eye are stimulated by light to create vision, these special nerve endings in the fascia are stimulated by pressure and tension of the fascia to give the sense of proprioception. Position sense makes the following possible:
All coordinated motion—walking, talking, brushing teeth or swinging a golf club—basically, every action that you take.
All posture—you can’t stand and sit upright or even half-way slouch without a properly functioning position sense. Without it, you would just lie flat on the floor.
Joint alignment and stability—proprioception gives the body information that it needs to keep your joints aligned and protected.
Muscular balance—most muscles have an opposite that balances against them. For instance, the biceps and triceps move your elbow in opposite directions. Muscular balance is critical for making complex movements like swinging a tennis racket or walking across the floor.
Without these vital functions working properly, some major issues can arise. This brings us to our next fascia fact.
It Can Cause Big Problems
As a structural tissue, fascia is susceptible to changes from injury. Causes include muscle strain, impact injuries, sprains, repetitive stress and chronic muscle tension. Such injuries might cause this normally flexible tissue to become stiff or restricted which, in turn, can interfere with the nerves that are used for position sense, and that’s when problems can arise.
When fascia is stiffened or distorted by injury, it can cause a “glitch” in position sense. This means potential problems with muscular balance, joint stability, posture and alignment. Often, these problems are subtle at first and can take months, or even years, to cause pain or other symptoms. A person who suddenly experiences migraine headaches might have no idea that the new headaches are caused by fascia restriction in her neck from a car accident several years ago. Or someone else might not realize that stiff fascia from a childhood ankle fracture is throwing off his hip alignment to cause weakness and pain in his shoulder.
Because fascia is everywhere, restricted fascia can cause problems almost anywhere too. Headaches, spinal pain, plantar fasciitis, vertigo, tendinitis and bursitis are just a few of the problems that often result from a fascial restriction. In addition, because fascia is an interconnected network, problems from fascial restriction can travel. This means that an initial problem in one area of the body, such as an ankle, can cause pain or other problems in an entirely different area, such as a shoulder.
The positive news about fascia restriction is that it is not permanent damage. There are many different hands-on methods which can be used to release stiffness and restriction from this connective tissue. In our office, we use treatment techniques that apply gentle pressure to release restrictions quickly and permanently, often relieving years of chronic pain and stiffness. The amount of treatment needed varies from person to person, but for most the result is similar— lasting change in the fascia and relief from aggravated stress and pain.
There are different types of restriction which can occur in fascia, with different treatment methods for each type. Appropriate treatment restores muscular balance, joint alignment and stability, as well as returning the body to better posture. Fascia restriction treatment addresses the root of pain, rather than temporarily masking the problem.
Some of Your fascia’s Favorite Things
Keeping your body’s fascia in shape requires a few important items:
Water—healthy fascia needs to be well hydrated, so drink enough water to keep your urine light colored or clear.
Sleep—fatigue can lead to muscular weakness and a greater tendency to muscle strain, which can cause fascial restriction.
Nutrition—maintaining fascia requires adequate protein and minerals in your diet. Also, avoiding pro-inflammatory foods, like grains and sugar, helps to protect the fascia from becoming easily restricted.
Movement—fascia needs consistent movement to remain healthy. Stretching, jumping, and resistance exercises, like weight training or swimming, all stimulate the fascia to keep it strong, supple and resistant to developing restrictions, always within the safe limits of your abilities, of course.
I hope these five fascia facts have given you a more comprehensive understanding of this vital tissue. Now you know why fascia matters—and how to keep yours functioning!
You are invited to attend an evening program on January 29, 2020, where you can learn in-depth about fascia, why it is important and how the successful treatment of fascia can relieve pain. 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 6:50 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. For more information, visit GentleBay.com.