Monday, August 20, 2012

The "MassageNinja" is a bit of a Fascia-nista

The body continues to always amaze me and "fascia" is the core of my amazement and my obsession.  Every time I use this term almost always the next thing asked is, "what is fascia?"  Well fascia is defined as a layer of fibrous tissue below the skin that covers underlying tissues and separates different layers of tissue.  It is a structure of connective tissue that surrounds and encloses muscles, groups of muscles, blood vessels and nerves, binding some structures together, while permitting others to slide smoothly over each other.
layer of fascia wrapped around a muscle

Now this definition probably still has most of you confused, but to give you an idea of what fascia looks like, it resembles that of tight-knit stockings and if you have ever eaten a piece of fried chicken, the silky layer behind the fried skin is exactly what fascia is and that tissue covers the entire body. 

Fascia is a 3-dimensional web connecting every structure in your entire body from head to toe without interruption, and acts as a shock absorber to the body.  It is a continuous unit and in simple terms is made of 3 main things:  Elastin - stretchy material; Collagen - extremely tough/inflexible material exhibiting a huge amount of tensile strength; and Matrix - a gel-like substance.

Fascia is designed to protect you and keep your internal structures properly positioned.  If we took away all of "you" except your fascia, "you" would still maintain your shape.  Fascia has the natural tendency to become solidified, shortened and thickened when the body goes through a trauma, an inflammatory process, or exhibits poor posture over time either stress or injury induced.  Over time these trauma/injury induced fascial lines of tension will pull the body into themselves, and out of its natural, crucial, 3-dimensional  alignment, as fascial lines of tension are stronger than healthy tissue.

For example, the implications on one's body for sport are great especially over a long period of time.  The brutality of football, the repetitive nature of a pitching arm or even jumping up for rebounds while enduring contact from an opposing player, leaves an athletes body a wreck.  Rest alone will not heal the body completely.  If scar adhesions have formed, imbalances in the fascial system or flexibility has been compromised so fascia needs to be addressed.  
#90 Mario Williams, BODY WORx client, going in for a sack

Traditional treatment methods such as electrical stimulation, ultrasound and ice, although helpful to the body, won't directly address the fascial system.  This is the key to allowing the body to endure throughout time as it helps create our structure.  Recognize that fascia plays a vital roile in the healing process, as well as performance.

Thomas Myers, the author of "Anatomy Trains," through dissection, shows that there are lines both structural - existing in the tissue and functional - involved with movement, throughout the whole body.  "Anatomy Trains" is extremely informative in understanding fascia and its functions and really delves into this different way of studying anatomy.

Anatomy Trains maps the "anatomy of connection"

I'll touch more on various fascia topics, tips, etc. in the upcoming blog entries.  Hope this post was helpful and informative.

~Joann Brito, LMT

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