What is the “Fascial System” and why does it matter?
Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens up. The fascial system is composed of fibers, cells, and the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM makes up the vast majority of fascial tissue and is composed almost entirely of water. Myofascia is a term to distinguish the fascia that is a part of every muscle of your body. Fascia can exist without being a part of a muscle…but a muscle cannot and does not exist without its “myofascia.”
Dysfunctions in the myofascial system have far-reaching effects, from decreased range of motion and associated pains to postural dysfunctions and related ailments. For many people, getting a myofascial treatment is incredibly beneficial. Even if you come to session without any ailments or complaints, helping you keep your fascia as healthy as possible can help prevent it from becoming problematic.
Here are three things you can do to keep your fascial system healthy:
1. Stay Hydrated
Keeping the fascial system “fluid” is near the top of the list of why we need to stay hydrated. When we are dehydrated, the ECM (which should be a mucus-like substance) becomes thick, sticky, and viscous. This thick stickiness in the ECM leads to fascial adhesions (layers of fascia stuck together, aka knots). Maintaining proper hydration helps prevent myofascial adhesions.
2. Move Your Body
Drinking enough fluids is only part of the equation. The other part is to make sure that fluid can get to all of the tissues. The best way to do that is to move your body. As you move your body through various novel positions, such as those performed in a yoga or dance class, fluid begins to move through the myofascial system.
Imagine squeezing some dirty water out of a used sponge. Once the pressure is released from the sponge, it can absorb fresh, clean fluid. Our bodies work in a similar way. Stretching works the same way as squeezing the sponge does. Releasing the stretch is like releasing the sponge; it allows new fluid to enter.
One other effective way to maintain a healthy fascia is through doing “mobility” work. Mobility work involves deeper and more focused work on problem areas, often with the assistance of a tool, ball, or roller to apply pressure directly to the fascia in order to affect positive change.
3. Eat an Anti-inflammatory Diet
Diet and nutrition are loaded subjects these days, but one thing that pretty much everybody agrees on is that the “Standard American Diet” is pro-inflammatory. There are many ill effects of systemic inflammation caused by a highly inflammatory diet. When inflammation affects the fascial system, the body produces a pathological or excessive amount of collagen, a glue-like substance that binds tissues together. Excess amounts of collagen bring excess stickiness, increasing the likelihood of fascial adhesions. Similar to how dehydration can cause adhesions, system inflammation caused by a pro-inflammatory diet can also cause adhesions.
Keeping these three things in mind will significantly reduce the likelihood of developing myofascial adhesions and keep your facial system healthy.
Dr. Jess Reynolds