close up of fascia

What is Fascia and Why is it so Important?

Have you ever had myofascial release? Lots of people have had it done, but what exactly is ‘fascia’? Why do I need it ‘released’? And why is it so important to keep healthy?

 Your body, as a unit, is supported and protected by fascia as well as your muscles and organs. It plays an important supportive role to the musculoskeletal system as it provides a strong protective sheath around our entire body. Think of fascia like an orange, yes the fruit. Your skin would be like the rind of the orange and if you peeled back that rind you’d see a thick, white, fibrous layer. That thick white part of the orange encompasses the fruit and binds the rind to the center and this is exactly what the fascia does. So next time you peel an orange think of your fascia!

Our body is protected from head to toe with this fascia system that serves as a protective, bonding barrier to our deep soft tissue. Fascia can also be visualized as similar in appearance to a spider’s web. Not only is fascia covering our body right underneath our skin but it is densely woven and penetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and even the organs like our heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The stickiness and fine strong fibers of a spider’s web is similar to your fascia. So why is fascia so important then? It is important because it enables you to perform everyday activities as basic as sitting and standing. Do you need to keep it healthy? Without a doubt. What if the fascia gets damaged? Well fascia, in its normal state is relaxed and able to stretch and move without restriction, but when you experience physical injury the fascia loses flexibility and becomes tight, restricted, and tense. This is that pain you feel before your therapist talks about releasing the tension. Myofascial release is working on fascia linked to and within the muscle which becomes distorted and can pull, twist, and compress the body into misalignment.

Hopefully you can see how important fascia is and the most interesting part is there is still so much scientists are learning about it. Keeping this very important system healthy is vital for your overall health and wellness. Hydration is a big factor. Drink lots of water as it helps fascia deliver nutrients and remove waste and toxins from cells. Regular exercise obviously helps blood flow and muscle movement, but teamed up with a solid stretching routine can help decrease tension buildup in the muscles and fascia. Your body is amazing and your fascia system has a lot to do with that, so be kind to it and stretch, walk and hydrate to a healthier you.

foam rolling

Can Myofascial Release Help Back Pain?

Many people deal with lower back pain every year and in most cases it is mechanical or non-organic simply meaning it isn’t caused by serious conditions, such as inflammatory arthritis, infection, fracture, or cancer.

Myofascial release is a manual therapy technique that can help with that bad back of yours and get you doing the activities you enjoy again. There are several myofascial release techniques that can greatly improve the mobility of the back, as well as the knees, ankles and hips. The goal of these techniques is to manipulate the myofascial tissues, which are those tough membranes that wrap, connect and support your muscles.

Your back is influenced by other muscle areas and by releasing tension in tight glutes, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps it can help improve your back mobility and posture. Using a simple tennis ball or lacrosse ball on a hard surface can do wonders to loosen up those tight connecting areas. By laying on your back and placing the tennis ball on the glutes (commonly known as the ‘butt muscles’) and rolling on it to find that tight spot can release the tension. Reposition the ball on your lower legs just midway between your knee and ankle on your calf muscle and find another point. Roll the ball up and hit the hamstring area. Flip over on your stomach and do it again on the quadriceps which is located between your knee and hip. If you don’t want to lay on the floor you can try these techniques on the bed with the tennis ball on a hardcover book, or any other hard portable surface, to stop it from sinking into the bed cushion. To have added targeted pressure on those sore trigger points you might try a lacrosse ball as it is harder and slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

A foam roller can produce fantastic results for a tight back. It provides broad and superficial strokes like the hands of a trained massage therapist stretching the tissue in multiple directions. If you sit at work all day, you undoubtedly know about stiff upper back muscles, those pesky knots between the shoulder blades and a tight mid back area. Using a foam roller can help iron out those kinks. Firstly, position the foam roller at your mid back. Have your butt on the ground and cross your arms. Slowly extend back over the roller reaching your head to the ground if possible. Roll the foam roller to your upper back keeping your shoulder blades together. This will lengthen those back muscles and ease the pressure built up.