If you want to know how to release your fascia, get rid of your pain and help your muscles and joints then you should check out my Ultimate Self Massage Guide. It shows you how to use a tennis ball and foam roller to combat your pain at home.
Things hurt sometimes. You get pains and aches. It’s ok, because generally you can fix it. However, sometimes the issue may not be so simple. Got hamstring problems? How about tight calves? Get constant pain in your arches? Back get sore occasionally? All these problems can be, and often are related to fascia.
What in the world is Fascia?
Read on…this 3 part series will tell you all you need to know about this important piece of the pain puzzle. Part 1 is going to cover what fascia is, how it becomes tight and why it causes you pain. Problems and solutions come in the next two parts. I am a firm believer in understanding a concept makes it easier to apply.
What Is Fascia?
Fascia is a massive sheath of connective tissue that surrounds everything inside your body. Really, everything. Right from top to bottom you are covered in fascia. There are three different types that can be located in the body.
- Superficial- Surrounds face, neck and sternum
- Visceral- Surrounds Organs
- Deep- Surrounds muscles
We are concerned with the deep fascia. The deep fascia is a tough, thick and fibrous connective tissue that surrounds all of your muscles. Deep fascia does what your muscles can do, it contracts and relaxes, and it has sensory receptors that detect pain and proprioception.
Every single muscle in your body is wrapped tightly in many directions of fascia. The interconnected nature of fascia means that everything in the body is connected to everything else. Fascia is basically all joined in various lines throughout the body. Here are the 5 lines of fascia.
- Superficial back line- starts at the bottom of your feet and goes up and over the top of your head.
- Superficial front line- Starts on the top of your feet at the toes and ends behind the ear.
- Lateral line- Runs along the side of your lower body, hips, and obliques.
- Spiral line- Wraps from side to side along the body.
- Deep front line- Runs along the spine and jaw.
Everything is really connected by your fascia! You can see how if it is not functioning how it should be in one area, you may be in for some trouble. If your fascia is too tight, it can restrict your muscles ability to perform optimally, not to mention grow and repair. Remember, it’s like it’s holding the muscle together, if it’s too tight, there’s no room to move. It can also alter your biomechanics and cause you problems in other areas.
How Can Fascia Cause Pain?
When one part of the fascia is injured or tight, it can affect tissues that are pretty far away from the actual site of tightness or injury. We will go through more examples of problems caused by tight fascia in Part 2, however here is a small example to get your head around how fascia can really make a meal of your body functions. I read about this test in t-nation.
- Stand up, with your legs straight try to touch your toes, note how far you get,
- Grab a tennis ball, standing on one leg, place the tennis ball under the other foot and roll around for about 30 seconds. Go slowly, and stop on any extra sore points.
- Repeat with the other foot.
- Do the toe touch test again.
Most of you will find you got a little bit further, or felt much less of a pull on your hamstrings, This is because your fascia starts at your feet, and runs right up through to your hammies. If you have tight fascia in your feet, you will have tight fascia in your hammies. See how interconnected you are?!
Do this test and you might be able to get further than this guy Pic: ninjapoodles
But How Does It Get So Tight?
There are three ways in which your fascia can become tight.
When you injure a muscle and it’s fascia, your body responds by trying to fix it. Fascia is healed with a special collagen fibre. These are laid down in many different directions over the injured point. Your body is basically overcompensating. If the fibres don’t align normally, they can contract and cause a tight spot. Therefore the mobility of the whole fascial unit is compromised.
When a tissue is overloaded chronically (long term) your body will produce more collagen. It then accumulates in the fascia that has been overloaded. Same deal as above, thicker tighter fascia leads to many problems. This is probably the number one cause of fascia pain for people. When you sit down at a desk, your Psoas is constantly shortened. When you use the computer, your shoulder is under the same strain everyday. This strain every single day will cause the fascia to react and become tighter, causing trigger points through it and the muscle. Your fascia will change and mould with what you are doing. Incorrect biomechanics or repeat movements will cause your fascia to adapt and take on the abnormal movement patterns and structure.
When you are immobile for as little as four weeks, collagen forms on the affected fascia. When immobile there is also an issue of less water binding within the fascia, and the collagen fibres become closer to each other. The flexibility of the fascia then decreases. You see how if you have your leg in a cast for an extended period of time, why you are so stiff when you get out. Same with any injury that causes you to be immobile.
Until Next Time…
If you got your head around all that you are doing well. The most important things to take out from this post is that
- Your fascia is connected right throughout your body.
- It is very adaptable and will change with repeat movements and strain, causing tightness, and therefore trigger points, pain and biomechanical issues.
- If one area isn’t functioning chances are another will be greatly affected, everything is connected.