We’re back with Part Two of our fascia series! Now that we know a bit more about what it is, where it is, and why it’s so important, let’s take a closer look at fascial-specific pain points and how to repair and care for this super substance!
Remember, fascia is the smooth, slippery tissue that runs through every one of your muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and organs. Think of it as a casing for every part of us — the skin under the skin. That means that even if you have an issue that originates with a muscle, the solution to that issue often is the fascia.
Fascia is present all throughout the body, but certain muscles are constantly being worked and strained, which can irritate the fascia because of their intertwined relationship. Let’s look at a few of those ‘danger spots’ and consider how treating your fascia can alleviate pain and muscle issues. The following muscles are hot spots for irritation:
- Sternocleidomastoid: The large muscle on either side of the neck that helps the head rotate.
- Trapezius: The flat triangular back muscle that tilts and turns the head and neck, steadies the shoulders, and twists the arms. It goes from the base of your skull to the middle of the back.
- Levator scapulae: A pair of strap-like muscles that help raise and rotate the shoulder blades. They run from the first four cervical vertebrae to the top edge of your shoulder.
- Infraspinatus: A triangular muscle located on the backside of each shoulder blade that helps rotate and stabilize the shoulder joints. It’s part of the rotator cuff.
- Rhomboids: A pair of upper back muscles that pull the shoulder blades together when they contract. These muscles run diagonally from the upper spine down to the back of the shoulder blades.
As you may have realized, our back, spine, and neck endure a lot of work and carry the most stressors. Since it’s all connected, diagnosing the pain points is most effectively done by a professional — deep pain in the shoulder could have everything to do with the spine and nothing to do with the shoulder.
Tips for Healthy Fascia
General fascia care is part of overall good body maintenance. Here are a few ways to keep everything working well.
Keep it quenched: Similar to most of the body, fascia is made up of water. It operates better, has more mobility, and endures physical activity best when it’s wet. Drinking plenty of water is not just something our mother tells us will cure what ails us — it works! Adding powdered collagen to your water or smoothies is another good way to build up that elasticity because consuming collagen can help to build back facial form.
Stretch consistently: Don’t wait until your muscles are unbearably tight. Stretch consistently to maintain high mobility and happy fascia. If you allow the muscles to become tight often it’ll lead to the fascia drying out beyond repair. Over time, the fascia becomes rigid, compressing the muscles and the nerves and creating a vicious circle of discomfort!
Tend to tight fascia gently: If your fascia has tightened up, it won’t let up easily. Fascia works in slower cycles than muscles, contracting and stretching more slowly. For fascia care, hold gentle stretches for three to five minutes, relaxing into the areas that need attention (sound familiar, yogis?)
Yin Yoga: While athletic yoga is fluid and quick, taking you on fast progressions of one posture to the next, yin yoga is slow and steady, incorporating long holds and slow releases. This method will target fascia more directly.
Self-care isn’t just a saying: Spending all day tense and tight at a desk or working out hard does not strike a balance with your body. Take the time to actually relax and reset your inner self. Taking a 15 to 20 minute Epsom salt bath is especially good for loosening tight fascia and helping to release muscles from their tension hold. Following the bath with light movement afterward will really seal the deal.
Use a Foam Roller: Applying a foam roller to your fascia is different than when doing so on muscles. It’s important to concentrate on the areas next to the IT bands. Fascial adhesions form right between the tissue, so try to focus there as opposed to on the tissue.
Rolfer Visit: Check your area to see if you have a local fascial or myofascial therapy specialist (aka rolfers). Rolfers specialize in unbinding damaged fascia to release adhesions. Similar to a massage, the method is better targeted toward the tougher material surrounding the muscles.
Most importantly, take care of your body. It needs balance, not a 24/7 coach telling it to push harder. You will not reap the benefits of fitness without rest and careful rejuvenation. Take care from the inside out, Warriors!