Fascia is the key connective tissue below the skin that can cause a tight, knotted feeling. But show it some TLC and it will help you move well for life.
FASCIA’S SLINKY EFFECT
Collagen ﬁbres help fascia stretch, and elastic ﬁbres allow it to return to its resting state.
The fascia network
Fascia is like a full-body webbing: It keeps everything in place below the skin’s surface, wrapping your muscles, bones, organs, nerves and blood vessels in an interconnected network of collagen and elastic ﬁbres. Every step and squat – and every hour sedentary – aff ect your fascia, says Arkady Lipnitsky, a chiropractor at Rebalance NYC wellness centre in the US. “If your joints feel stiff when you get up after sitting for a long period, you can blame the fascia, which has temporarily lost its elastic properties and ﬂuid resilience,” says exercise physiologist Sue Hitzmann, a founding member of the Fascia Research Society. “Move around and the feeling goes away. That’s one big reason why movement is so essential.”
When things get kinky
Over time (or because of an injury), fascia can tear, become inﬂamed or shortened, or stick together – you may experience those adhesions as knots. Consider the common case of plantar fasciitis, that underfoot pain you can get when running. The ache is caused when the fascia that runs from your heel bone to the front of your foot along the arch is inﬂ amed from being repeatedly overstretched, says sports medicine physician Dr Jordan Metzl in The Athlete’s Book of Home Remedies.
(The ﬁx: rest from the off ending activity and gentle foot ﬂexes.) Meanwhile, major adhesions can restrict movement and even prevent muscles from contracting efficiently, limiting ﬂexibility, mobility and strength, Arkady says.
Massaging and relaxing the fascia can help prevent issues with it. Such myofascial release – using pressure from hands or tools – and stretching keeps the fascia supple, says Ashley Black, who helps clients maintain a healthy fascia and created the Fasciablaster tool. “With tight spots, go easy,” she says. “It takes light, brisk scrubbing motions to break them up.” Research in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that pre-workout foam rolling and roller massage can also up mobility and reduce postworkout soreness. “Myofascial release increases blood ﬂow to the area, which can alleviate pain and help you recover from a workout faster,” says Dr Armin Tehrany, founder of Manhattan Orthopedic Care, an orthopaedic centre in the US.
Text: Lauren Mazzo/ Photos: 123RF.com