Fascia and massage

Imagine that your whole body is covered in thousands of pieces of cling wrap. Each individual component of the body is wrapped with its own piece of wrap. These in turn are bundled together and bound by another piece of cling wrap. When you have this mental picture in your head, you should have a slight understanding of what a fascia might look like (if it was cling film).

Fascia is defined by Findley and Schleip (2009) as a collection of all the soft fibrous connective tissue that spread throughout the human body. This simply means that everything in the human body is covered by fascia. One of the functions of fascia is to separate different parts of the body and help to provide shape.

In an ideal world, the fascia is in a perfect condition and functions at optimum capacity. Unfortunately, this is a fantasy and does not relate to everyday life. When exposed to stress, tension in the body increases and transfers to the fascia. The implication of this stress is that the fascia becomes constricted and this in turn increases the risk of injuries and weakens the immune system. The fascia web contains blood, lymph and nerve fibres as it is a living part of the body. When the fascia is compromised, a decrease in blood flow results and impacts the tissue it surrounds. A constricted fascial sheath impacts the muscle by reducing the mobility of the muscle tissue. Plainly put, your movements become strained as it might feel that something is holding you back, preventing you from performing everyday movements you previously were able to do.

A healthy fascia regenerates itself. When injured or strained the fascia becomes sticky, compressed, and tight. Healthy lifestyle choices result in a healthy fascia. Eating healthy foods, keeping your body hydrated and regular stretching or exercises can accomplish this. A simple exercise that does wonders for the fascia is simply stretching out the whole body when you wake up in the morning before starting with your daily activities (similar to what a cat does when it gets up first thing in the morning).

For a massage therapist, the fascia is one of the major role-players during our treatment approach. Techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy are often used to treat fascia that has become stiff/sticky or constricted. If you have never treated yourself to a therapeutic massage, be sure to put that on your bucket list of things to do for your body.

Remember that the fascia is found all over your body, it communicates with all parts of the body. Every day activities influences how it functions. So next time you want to treat your body, instead of buying a chocolate, rather take a nice walk or stretch out instead. A healthy fascia results in a healthy body.

Findley, T., Schleip, R., 2009. Introduction. In: Huijing, P.A., Hollander, P., Findley, T.W., Schleip, R. (Eds.), Fascia research II. Basic science and implications for conventional and complementary health care. Urban and Fischer, Munchen