You know how important your skin, muscles, and bones are. You probably care for your body by applying creams and sunblock to protect your skin, exercising to build up your muscles, and eating the right nutrients to strengthen your bones.
Well, there’s another important thing that you may be forgetting about, and it’s called fascia.
What is Fascia?
Fascia is connective tissue that is found throughout the body, from head to toe. It surrounds muscles and organs and forms a complex, interwoven system that encompasses everything under your skin.
It is made mostly of collagen, including reticulin and elastin. It is smooth and slippery so that it can easily glide, move, and stretch with the movements in the body. When your fascia is healthy, you feel young, flexible, and loose. When fascia is tight or damaged, your body feels creaky, stiff, and limited.
Important Roles of Fascia
Fascia serves many purposes. It attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates different muscles, muscle groups, and organs throughout the body.
The fibers of the fascia run everywhere. In some areas of the body, they’re denser than in others.
The Circulatory System and Fascia
All the blood vessels in your body must pass through the web of fascia fibers. Healthy, flexible fibers allow for blood to easily flow through, providing enough nutrients and oxygen to every part of the body. Rough, dry fascial fibers can block blood vessels and diminish blood flow, which means that certain limbs and organs may not be getting all the nutrients they need. (1)
The Nervous System and Fascia
Just like blood vessels run through the fibers of the fascia, so do nerves and pain receptors. When fascia is tight and inflexible, it can block nerve signals or pinch nerves, causing pain, tingling, or numbness. (1)
The Skin and Fascia
You may think that the more creams, tonics, and lotions that you apply to your skin, the healthier it will be. But your skin’s health relies more heavily on the nutrients that it gets from inside the body than the ones it gets from the outside. There is a thin layer of fascia that lies directly under the skin. When the fascia is healthy, blood can efficiently flow through it to supply nutrients to the skin. Unhealthy fascia limits the nutrient supply, leaving skin looking dull and dry.
Your Muscles and Organs and Fascia
Fascia wraps around each muscle and organ in the body, allowing them to slide over one another without pain or discomfort.
Cellulite and Fascia
Most people believe that cellulite is caused by excess fat. Fascia expert Ashley Black says otherwise. She explains that while fat does play a role in cellulite, it’s not the cause. Black says, “When the fascia adheres to the skin, it pulls the skin down, and when the fat pushes up against the uneven, grid-like fascia, it can cause a dimpled look like the tufting on a sofa.” Unhealthy fascia is the main cause of cellulite! (2)
Pain and Fascia
You may be surprised to hear that many of the aches and pains felt throughout your body as you age are due to the distorted fascia. Certain parts of your body may be pushed, pulled, or compressed, compromising your posture, gait, and flexibility. One condition called myofascial pain syndrome sometimes occurs when a muscle has been contracted repeatedly. The condition causes pain in the muscle that sometimes radiates to other parts of the body as well. (3)
Healthy fascia allows for an easier range of motion, more flexibility, better circulation, healthier nerves, and smoother skin. Unhealthy fascia can cause you to feel stiff and limited, and it can lead to bad posture, tight muscles, and a whole lot of pain in the long run.
Clearly, no one wants to have unhealthy fascia. Here is all you need to know to properly care for your fascia.
How to Care for Your Fascia
The following recommendations will help you to keep your fascia in full working condition so that it doesn’t become a tangled, dry mess that interferes with your circulation, muscle functioning, and nervous system.
Like every other organ and system in the body, your fascia needs good nutrition in order to work properly. Your nutrient intake directly affects how well your body is able to repair itself after injury and how well your healthy cells regenerate, and it determines whether you’re just surviving or you’re thriving.
Fascia needs to stay properly hydrated and lubricated in order to work correctly. When dry, fascia becomes stiff and inflexible, but with enough water in your system, your fascia can bend, twist, turn, and glide with ease.
When you stretch, you’re not only stretching out your muscles and tendons but your fascia as well. Stretching is one of the ways you can keep your fascia flexible for a wide range of motion throughout your body.
For good blood flow, neural activity, and muscle activation, it’s important to exercise regularly. Exercise helps to prevent fascial restriction so that everything can stay in full working condition. It’s a good idea to switch it up regularly to keep from injuring muscles, tendons, and fascia with repeated movements.
One of the best things you can do for your fascia? Massage—hands down. Massage helps to release muscle tension and tight fascia fibers. One type of fascia massage, called myofascial release therapy, focuses specifically on releasing “knots,” or bunched-up fibers that are putting pressure on nerves and causing pain.
Pay attention to your posture. The way you hold yourself and move has a big impact on the health of your fascia. Keep your core strong so that your back is always well-supported. You will find that proper posture will help to fix even the smallest of misalignments throughout your body.
If you could get your hands on one tool that helps to care for your fascia, it should be a foam roller. The roller works out kinks and adhesions in the fascia for smoother, easier movement. Simply roll it over any area in which you feel stiffness, pain, or discomfort. It may hurt a little, so take it slow and breathe deeply. Spend up to 20 seconds on the sore spot to avoid further aggravating it.
Fascia plays an important role in your health. Just as you care for the rest of your body, it’s important to care for your fascia. You can do that by eating right, staying hydrated, stretching, exercising, focusing on proper posture, and getting a massage when necessary.