Fascia is like three-dimensional form of a stretchy fibrous connective tissue made up of collagen and elastin, forming several extremely thin layers that are interwoven entirely within our body. Fascia is located amongst the layers of muscle and surrounding all internal body tissues. Fascia has many functions:
- To provide support by maintaining the proper position of the individual muscle fibres, blood vessels and nerves within the muscles preventing them from moving out of place during muscle contraction.
- Allows muscles to change shape as they are stretched and shortened, protects organs and muscles from external forces.
- Lubrication of the tissues that meet with one other during movement preventing tissue degeneration.
- Holds the entire body together as a unit.
Just like the white pith of an orange holds the segments together, fascia works in the same way in the body. It can be thick or thin depending on the function it needs to provide.
Fascia is the tissue that unites the musculoskeletal, circulatory and nervous systems, a biological wonder that is now receiving long overdue attention from medical professionals and researchers. It has an important role and is far more important than you probably realise.
Each skeletal muscle fibre has many bundles of myofilaments. Each bundle is called a myofibril. This is what gives the muscle its striated appearance. The contractile units of the cells are called sarcomeres.
Due to a variety of causes, the fascia can become distorted. Adhesions created can cause weak nerve impulses, limit your flexibility and restrict your full range of body movement. Tight fascia can also affect the circulatory system, impinging on veins and arteries and can result in poor blood flow.
In healthy fascia the collagen fibres have a strong tensile strength, resisting considerable forces and at the same time stay pliable and bendable, it’s like one huge fine spider web, interwoven and all connected. When you pull on a spider’s web the rest of the web stretches out. Fascia acts in a similar way.
It’s a common occurrence to find that the distorted fascia found in one part of the body has been found to affect its adjacent structures. For instance, some clients have presented with hip pain and it has been resolved by releasing the fascia in the foot.
Releasing the fascia is important to injury and disability recovery. Common stretching cannot help the tight fascia. Slow and sustained stretching has good benefits. It normally cannot be released with common massage therapy, it needs a different technique applied altogether.