Why Fascia Might be the Secret to Your Fitness Woes

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    If you were to ask anyone what holds them back from performing physical fitness on a regular basis, they are likely to give you a few standard answers, usually falling into the categories of time, enjoyment, and comfort. A lot of people say there’s not enough space in their busy schedules to work out. Others will tell you they haven’t found the right workout. And others (especially those who do try to be a bit more active) experience what they deem as muscle pain, which prevents them from feeling comfortable enough to get moving.

    We can provide suggestions for scheduling your exercise and give suggestions for fun and productive workout regimes. But today, we want to talk about the body. That pain you’re feeling? It’s most likely your fascia that needs attention, not your muscles. 

    Okay, great. But do you know what your facia is and how it works with your muscles?

    What is fascia?

    Let’s start with a (not so) basic definition. The Fascia Research Conference recently updated the definition to be: “fibrous collagenous tissue which is part of a body-wide tensional force transmission system.” [1] 

    Simplified? The purpose of the fascia is to communicate the stretch and tension adaptability the organ provides the body as a holistic system. 

    What are the types of fascia? 

    • Superficial Fascia – The outermost layer of the skin located in all regions of the body. It can be further divided into the superficial fatty layer, intermediate membranous layer, and deep fatty layer.
    • Deep Fascia – Covers the entire musculoskeletal system such as bones, cartilage, muscle, and tendons. This is a much thicker, denser layer than superficial. 
    • Meningeal Fascia – Covers the central nervous system.
    • Visceral Fascia – Suspends the organs within their cavities by wrapping them in connective tissue. [9]

    How can fascia negatively affect the body?

    Fascia is incredibly powerful and necessary.  When it’s healthy, it is smooth, rubbery, and flexible. All of our fasciae (the plural of fascia) starts off this way. While it does dry up slowly over time, some factors can speed up the adhesion process. These factors include a lifestyle of limited physical activity, fixation with working one part of the body, or trauma to the body such as surgery or injury. When fascia is dehydrated or knotted (“adhesive” is the word used most often with fascia), its elasticity becomes drastically reduced, leading to misalignment in the body as certain areas overcompensate for the tight areas. 

    The best example is a t-shirt; grip one section of a t-shirt in your fist and notice how the rest of the tee is being pulled in that direction. Your fascia is similar, it’s connected to everything whereas a muscle knot is a more isolated issue. When it dries up and tightens around muscles, mobility becomes limited and painful knots develop around the muscles as opposed to the muscle itself. 

    Here’s the bottom line. Your fascia is a fascinating part of your physiology and it is vital that you care for it so you can keep your body healthy enough to work out. 

    Check out the second part of this fascia study (dropping this week!) to learn about specific fascial injuries and how to care for your fascia. 

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