What is fascia?
A fascia, plural fasciae, is a densely woven network of connective tissue primarily made up of collagen. It wraps around each and every muscle, bone, nerve, artery, vein and internal organ in our body like a sheet of clingfilm. This keeps our individual parts separate and helps to reduce friction during everyday movement. Fasciae hold our bodies together, connecting our organs to our ribs to our muscles, and our bones to one another. It structures our bodies, balancing stressors and counter-stressors to facilitate mobility, flexibility and resilience.
Why is it important?
Healthy fasciae is relaxed and has the ability to stretch, glide and move without restriction. With physical or emotional trauma, a sedentary lifestyle, inflammation, poor posture, poor sleep quality, dehydration or unhealthy eating habits (or a combination of all the above!), fasciae loses its pliability. This can lead to adhesions and distortions in the fasciae, and restriction in our movement patterns. Myofascial restrictions (‘myo’ meaning ‘muscle’; ‘fascia’ meaning ‘band’) can produce tensile pressures of approximately 2,000 lbs per square inch on pain sensitive structures which will not appear in many of the standard tests. This means many people will continue to live with fascial pain that remains undiagnosed.
How do we look after our fascia?
Maintaining healthy fasciae takes time and dedication. There are a number of ways in which we can ensure our fasciae stays relaxed and flexible. Here are just some of our suggestions.
1. Stay Hydrated
The importance of staying hydrated for fascial health cannot be overstated. Think of your fascia as a sponge. When it’s dry, it becomes inflexible and brittle. With hydration, it becomes malleable and relaxed. Try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, daily. For example, if you weigh 180lbs, aim for a minimum of 90-180 ounces (approx. 2,700 – 5,400 ml) of water each day.
Stretching that lengthens your muscles can help to release tension in the fasciae. Aim to stretch out your muscles for at least 20 minutes per day. This can be done in small increments, such as 2 x 10 minute sessions, or 4 x 5 minute sessions. Hold the stretch for 60-90 seconds, ensuring that you are not causing yourself any pain. The best part is, many stretches can be done from the comfort of your desk if you have a sedentary job. Next time you’re sitting at your desk, why not try a seated piriformis stretch? Or perhaps, a standing hip flexor stretch? Small changes can go a long way!
3. Myofascial release
There are a number of ways in which you can self-release tension in your fasciae. Roll out a tight spot using a foam roller, or a tennis ball for those more stubborn areas! Apply pressure on the tight area for 30-60 seconds, until the tension dissipates. For particularly stubborn muscles, you may want to consider the use of a professional. Luckily, we have an excellent Registered Massage Therapist, Matt Banks, who can aid in the release of stubborn areas via Active Release Therapy. Click here to learn more about Matt.
4. Try Yoga
Practicing yoga is an excellent way to ensure you are gently stretching your muscles whilst also improving balance and strength. This can help to keep fasciae supple and flexible. Finding some time for yoga also has beneficial consequences for your mental health, such as lower stress and anxiety levels. Why not try one of our many yoga classes here at The Fitness Firm? Click here to view our updated Group Fitness schedule.
5. Assess your mobility with our Personal Trainer, Kwesi Millington
Keeping active and mobile are key in maintaining healthy fasciae. If you’re not sure about your current fitness and mobility levels, a Starter Plan with our trainer, Kwesi Millington, will help to put you on the right track.
During the Starter Plan, Kwesi runs through something called a ‘Functional Movement Screen’. The Functional Movement Screen is comprised of 7 movements that test a person’s balance, mobility and stability. When the results of the screen are analyzed by a certified facilitator (such as Kwesi), you as the client will learn what exercises should be avoided, and what should be included in a program – think of it as preventative maintenance. Placing exercise and performance on top of dysfunctional movement can impair performance and cause injury, which is exactly what we want to prevent. By booking a Starter Plan, you are ensuring that you start your fitness journey with a baseline that you and your trainer can use to move with purpose, on purpose, and without pain or injury. Click here to purchase your Starter Plan.