What is Fascia?
Fascia is a term used to identify a large fabric of connective tissue that surrounds all muscle, ligaments, and bone. It is made up of collagen, elastin, and a liquid component called ground substance. This gives structure to our muscle; each and every muscle cell in our body is connected to the other by fascia. Our muscle is essentially nothing more than tissue in a Myofascial “sack”.
If we didn’t have fascia we wouldn't have shape. This is why, when stretching, we must affect the fascia. When our muscle is tight or sustains an injury, we must loosen the fascia, and, most importantly, we must keep hydrated and active to lubricate our fascia! Think of an orange peel as the outer most aspect of fascia, under that the white pith that holds all segments together, the covering of the individual segment, and deeper still to the inner most aspect of the segment that holds the tiny beads of orange juice. Have you ever looked this closely at an orange? That juice would be just that without the orange’s fascia!
What is Myofascial Release?
Myofascial release is a technique focused on lengthening and correcting the Myofascia to allow the corresponding muscle to return to its meaningful, pain-free state. We can release pain and tension, and create long lasting change in the fascia by applying a consistent pressure and stretch on the fascial network to aid release. In this way, adhesions and scar tissue can be broken down and the fibre directions restored. When we achieve a balance in the Myofascial system we see an increase in ease of motion, relaxation, more energy, and decreased pain. Specialized therapists can aid in postural restrictions by working with specific Myofascial lines that inhibit an open posture.
How can this help you?
Our bodies are very adaptive, especially our fascial tissue. Since fascia is what gives our muscles shape, long periods of restricted posture will result in the tightening and shortening of the fascial tissue. The muscle becomes restricted by its confines and loses its flexibility and original length.
A common complaint we get at the Sport Medicine Clinic is low back pain. Our hip flexors will adaptively shorten and become tight because we’ve been sitting at our desk for long periods of time. When we stand up after hours of sitting, the restricted hip flexor muscles have a hard time lengthening, and this pulls on the low back, causing low back pain - this is where fascial release comes in.
In order to relieve tension on the low back we need to effect a change on the fascial tissue that surrounds the hip flexors (psoas), and corresponding muscles, such as the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hips. The fascia connects everything together, so restrictions and tightness in one area effects the rest. If you have had a treatment with me, you are aware that one of the first areas we assess and treat are the hips and low back. To me it is the gateway to unwinding the tension and compensations happening in the rest of the body, including tension in the neck and shoulders. Other modalities that we use in our Clubs and Clinics to treat Myofascia are:
• FDM (Fascial Distortion Technique)
• A.R.T (Active Release Therapy)
• Fascial Stretch (Stretch to Win)
To learn more about fascia, please contact Elise.
Elise Clarke, Registered Massage Therapist, Sport Medicine Clinic