Fascia is one of the least understood tissues in the body. Just as vital as bone and muscle, fascia permeates nearly every aspect of the human form, but still doesn’t get the attention it deserves! Healthy fascia is as important to your well-being as healthy muscles; fascial imbalances can lead to a host of physical problems, from chronic pain to limited range of motion.
What Is Fascia?
In the broadest sense, fascia (pronounced FASH-uh) is a thin layer of connective tissue that encases every muscle in your body. If you’ve ever cooked a chicken breast, you’ve seen fascia - it’s the thin, clear film on top of the meat, and also the clear tissue connects the skin to the muscle (meat). However, there’s more to it than that; muscles themselves are made up of smaller bundles of fibers covered by fascia, and each individual muscle fiber is itself encapsulated in its own layer of fascia. If you could remove all other tissues and leave just the fascia, it would conform exactly to the shape of all your muscles, organs, and connective tissue. It would be a perfect replica of your body!
What Does Fascia Have to Do With Injuries or Pain?
Fascia, like other connective tissue, can change in response to repeated stress or injury. Just as tendons may thicken in response to repetitive motion or lifting heavy weights, fascia may thicken and stiffen in areas where it is repeatedly exposed to stress. This results in areas with less flexibility, and can contribute to limited range of motion and improper movement patterns. In time, all these factors can result in chronic pain and even injuries. Many conditions, such as frozen shoulder, have a fascial component.
Fascia may also lose flexibility due to inactivity. Your muscles may get stiff when you sit or stay in any one position for too long, and your fascia does, too. These small restrictions can change the way you move and cause physical stress on different parts of your body that may kick off a cycle of injury.
How To Best Support Your Fascia?
Keeping your fascia in order can improve everything from your workout performance to your workplace productivity. So it’s definitely worth getting to grips with!
Apply Cold Therapy
Cryofreeze and cryotherapy are good after a workout because they reduce the inflammation of your entire body by restricting swelling. The fascia is right below your skin. The last thing that you want is to be inflamed. So the coolness can help significantly with inflammation. If you don’t have access to a cryotherapy tank, use a cold compress for 10 minutes, and then remove it for at least 15 minutes. Repeat this until you begin to find relief!
Get Your Cardio On
It's recommended to incorporate exercises without weights in your workout routine, like running, biking, swimming, and rowing to get the muscles moving and increase the blood supply to the muscles. As a bonus, these exercises support symmetry in the body, which also aids in the health of your fascia.
Keep You And Your Fascia Hydrated
Think about how different your skin looks and feels when it’s hydrated versus when it’s dry. It’s similar for fascia! If you’re hydrated, your fascia is going to have more of a Jell-O, malleable feel to it. If you’re dehydrated, it’s going to be crusty and flaky. That’s why hydration is super important to your fascia.
Try Foam Rolling
Most people think that the harder the foam roller the better, but the fascia release is better with a softer pressure, so begin with a slow and soft approach. It might still feel tender as you roll through the tissue, but it should not be agonising. With each pass through the muscle group, you can then work deeper into the tissue for more release. The more supple and mobile the body, the less injury prone!