When we think of human anatomy and how our bodies are held together, the first things that probably come to mind are bones and muscles wrapped in skin. These are the organs that get all the glory. Often overlooked, however, is the fascia—a thin layer of connective tissue that makes its way around or through every bone, muscle, organ, blood vessel, and nerve fiber, holding it all in place.
What is Fascia?
The fascia is actually multiple layers of tissue sandwiching a layer of liquid hyaluronan. The fascia is slippery, smooth, and flexible and a key structural component of the neurological, musculoskeletal, and vascular systems. It is an organized network of fibrous tissue that transitions from surrounding bones, tendons, and ligaments to becoming an interwoven part of muscle tissue.
What Can Go Wrong with Fascia?
Fascia is designed to stretch with movement, but it can thicken and lose flexibility in some circumstances. It can dry and tighten around the muscles, limiting mobility. Things that can contribute to this problem include:
- Limited physical activity
- Overworking repetitive movements
- Injury or surgery
Indications of Problems with Fascia
It’s often hard to distinguish between pain caused by muscles, joints, or fascia. Muscle and joint problems can worsen with continued movement, while continued movement can make fascial adhesions feel better. Myofascial pain syndrome can result in pain:
- During movement
- When pressure is applied
- Referred to seemingly unrelated areas
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial problems can result in pain involving sensitive muscular trigger points. Temporary muscle knots can be irritating but not long-lasting. But sometimes, the condition becomes chronic and persistent. In that case, we call it Myofascial Pain Syndrome.
How to Treat Fascia Pain
You can loosen knots caused by tightened fascia through a variety of interventions. These include heat therapy, yoga therapy, foam roller, massage, and even acupuncture. Often a full recovery will require more than one of these treatments. For more severe and chronic problems, consider the benefits of physical therapy.
In some cases, damage to the fascia in one area can result in problems elsewhere. For example, if you’ve strained your lower back, even if that injury has seemingly healed and you’re feeling no pain, it could be causing changes to your gait that could result in knee or ankle problems.
In a case like this, an experienced doctor or physical therapist is best equipped to diagnose. The good news is that once diagnosed, a few manual physical therapy treatments for myofascial release might be all it takes to eliminate the problem.
Keep Your Fascia Healthy
As always, exercise is our top recommendation for staying healthy—and keeping your fascia healthy is no exception.
A consistent routine of varied exercises is important but equally important is movement throughout the day. If you’re stuck behind a desk, get up once an hour to move around or take a quick walk around the office.
You should also stretch regularly and do your best to maintain good posture.
This will help keep your fascia supple and smooth and help it continue doing its job properly.