Everything you need to know about Fascia, the layer of connective tissue surrounding your muscles.
Fascia is a sticky layer of tissue that coats your muscles, nerves, and organs.
Until recently, scientists investigating muscle pain, movement and recovery had little interest in fascia. Could treating fascia be the missing link for releasing muscle pain and restoring normal range of movement?
If you take care of your fascia, your body will perform better while you’re working out and you’ll experience less pain overall. “Fascia is one of the most important and pervasive systems, because it connects every system together,” says Rebecca Pratt, Ph.D., a professor of anatomy at Oakland University.
You may already be familiar with foam rolling or using vibration therapy such as Thumper or Theragun. But if you want to take that treatment to the next level and really eliminate muscle pain and soreness, then you need to know how your fascia works.
Alongside foam rolling and stretching, there are many documented performance benefits of sports massage for looking after your tired muscles.
Science of Fascia
To understand how this critical tissue works, imagine an orange. The peel is your skin. Directly beneath that peel is a white, gauzelike substance that surrounds each orange wedge and ensures that the orange maintains its spherical structure. That gauzelike substance is like your fascia, a connective wrap made of gelatinesque glycoproteins that soak up water, collagen, and various other cells. Its main job is to hold your muscles, joints, tendons, and bones in place.
Fascia covers every muscle in your body, and when it tightens in the wrong places, it causes pain. You’ve felt this pain before, all those times you finished a heavy muscle workout and could barely walk upstairs.
The tissue surrounding your muscles can bunch, wrinkle, and stretch. And when it gets injured, it rebuilds as scar tissue, with fibres in a crisscrossing pattern. Fibres in healthy muscles and fascia all run in the same direction; when they crisscross, they bunch up even more and start to tug on your joints.
Focus On Your Fascia
Did you know there are 5 common complaints that you can fix by focusing on your fascia.
Is Fascia Involved? Do you feel a stabbing pain at your temples after sitting at your desk for a long period? Your desk job might be to blame. When your head and shoulders shift forward instead of staying aligned with your spine, the muscles (and the fascia around them) at the base of your skull tighten, while the ones that control your shoulders grow weak. Your pectoral fibers in your chest also tighten, pulling your shoulders further forward. The combo in this sensitive area leads to tension headaches.
Solution: Strengthen your shoulder and back muscles and open your chest by performing seated rows. Aim to do 3 sets of 12 at least 3 times a week.
2. A Lack Of Power, Speed Or Agility
Is Fascia Involved? You may feel like your body feels strong and athletic most days but other days your body can start to feel sluggish or tired. This could be because you haven’t trained your fascia. Researchers recently discovered that fascial tissue stores more kinetic energy than any other type of tissue. In fact, the springiness of fascia (not powerfully muscled calves) is the driving force that allows kangaroos to make 30-foot leaps. Due to this relationship, experts think plyometrics training makes your fascia more durable and resilient by increasing its density.
Solution: Forget fixing your fascia and actually strengthen it. Three times a week, spend up to 5 minutes doing agility ladder drills. Don’t have a ladder? Do 3 sets of 10 to 20 jump squats.
3. Chronic Foot Pain
Is Fascia Involved? Plantar fasciitis, or heel pain due to inflamed fascia in the sole of your foot, strikes 2 million people each year, especially runners. It’s often due to calf tightness—or flat feet.
Solution: Roll the sole of your feet over a tennis or golf ball for a minute each, ideally every day. In addition to that, foam-roll your calves for up to 5 minutes each.
4. Back Pain
Is Fascia Involved? Where your thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower) spine intersect is a problematic area. Restricted fascia anywhere, particularly in your hamstrings or quads, can pull on the fascia here. If you work a desk job, it likely means tightness in your psoas, a muscle in your hip flexors that lets you lift your knee and is vital to core strength.
Solution: The psoas muscles are located deep in your pelvic region so it can often be challenging to release any build-up in tension. The pigeon pose is a great way to stretch your hip flexors, and foam-roll your hamstrings at least twice a week.
5. Joint Stiffness
Is Fascia Involved? Tightness in muscles and surrounding fascia can cause joints to stiffen, making your body move in ways that can create long-term issues. For example, tight calves reduce your toe’s ability to flex toward your shin, changing your gait.
Solution: Foam roll or use a resistance band to stretch any tense, problematic areas immediately after each workout, since your muscles respond best when warm. Try to stretch at least three times daily and take regular breaks away from your desk.
Looking for Treatment or Advice for Your Muscle Pain?
Contact Marc today to book an appointment to discuss your muscle pain.
Marc is a qualified Remedial and Sports Massage Therapist and Personal Trainer experienced in offering a range of deep tissue massage techniques, gentle stretches and exercises to target your specific muscle pain.
Learn more about the benefits of Sports Therapy here.