Anatomy Moment: Fascia Matters – but what is it?

roll-release4I have the pleasure of working with several clients whose work lives are in marketing.  One of them told me recently that “fascia is trending!”  I was secretly thrilled by this news, because anything trending that has to do with anatomy is just right up my alley.

If you’re like many of us, you may have heard of fascia, but you may be somewhat confused about what exactly it is, or why rolling on a foam roller or pinky ball helps your body. On that note, I give you Corpo Kinetic’s most recent Anatomy Moment: Fascia Matters.

Fascia’s family.  Fascia is classified as a “connective tissue.”  Connective tissue is a large, somewhat convoluted category which includes: bone, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, blood, lymph, fat, and fascia.  One of the main roles of connective tissue is to provide physical support for the body, and the network of fascia is no exception.

What is fascia? Fascia surrounds all structures in our body.  It is a slippery material which reduces friction and permits easy movement.

For example, as you bend your arm, your bicep contracts, and as the muscle shortens it must glide easily across the underlying arm bone and the overlying skin.  If we didn’t have fascia, as we moved our muscles would rub on bone, nerves, skin, and blood vessels.  Think of an old track of carpet in the main passageway of the house which, after years and years of being walked on, has worn down to the threads.  Fascia prevents friction from causing a similar phenomenon in our bodies.
What is an adhesion?  If there is a problem in the fascial layers and they aren’t gliding properly, the fascia layers will adhere.  While this does prevent friction, it can create problems down the line.  Imagine pushing a shopping cart easily down the aisles – all four wheels spinning equally.  Now imagine that one of the wheels is sticky and no longer gliding right.  Instead of an effortless stroll, you’d be contorted and working unevenly to get that cart to roll in a straight line.

An adhesion is kind of like a “sticky wheel” inside the body.  If one part isn’t moving due to an adhesion, other parts will be moving or working too much, and pain can develop.  Some people feel pain around the adhesion or stuck area, and others feel pain around the part which is overworking.

roll-release2What is myofascial release? “Myo” stands for muscle, “fascial” is for fascia.  A myofascial release addresses fascial adhesions and tight muscles, working to release areas of tension.  Massage therapists perform myfascial release, and Pilates instructors will often use foam rollers and massage balls to show you how to perform releases on your own.

Ok, I have a foam roller and a pinky ball… Now: How often should I use it? For how long? When will I feel better?  

Rolling doesn’t have to take long, and is actually more effective if you do it more frequently for shorter periods of time than less frequently for longer periods of time – aim for 5-10 minutes a day.  While the length of recovery depends on many factors, I’ve seen significant improvement with rolling every day for only two weeks.

roll-releaseWhat should I roll?  How do I roll _______? You’re in luck!  Starting June 6, Corpo Kinetic will be offering monthly Roll & Release workshops.  Each workshop will include a brief anatomy discussion – what are we rolling and why? – before diving into 45 minutes of pure rolling bliss.  You’ll leave feeling better, and will have tools for self-care at home.