Fasciae (plural) are the tough layers of fibrous,
collagen-based connective tissues found throughout the entire human body. Fascia
surrounds individual muscles, muscle bundles within individual muscles, groups
of muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.
It binds these structures together in much the same manner that cellophane
binds a pallet of goods together . Consisting of several extremely thin layers,
Fascia is the tissue where the musculoskeletal system, circulatory system, and
nervous system all unite. It CONNECTS them- which is why we also call fascia-
Subsequently, healthy fasciae are flexible structures that are able to resist great tensile forces. Unhealthy, injured fascia forms restrctions and cannot bear as much force.
Fascia’s attachment points extend to all fibrous connective tissues, organ sheaths / membranes, vascular sheaths / membranes, the epineurium (fascia-like membranous nerve sheaths), the meninges (spinal cord sheaths), the periosteum (fascia-like membranous sheaths that surround bones), as well as the membranes that surround individual muscles.
VITAL FUNCTIONS OF HEALTHY FASCIA
It acts like an anatomical “corset” to bind and keep muscles together in a organized manner.
It maintains the proper position of the individual muscle fibers, blood vessels, and nerves within the muscles, and prevents them from moving all over the place during movement or muscle contraction.
It helps prevent injury by evenly distributing forces and loads for uniform transmission of these forces and loads over the whole muscle.
It creates a uniformly smooth / slick surface that essentially lubricates the various tissues that come in contact with each other during movement. This is helps prevent friction injuries and subsequent tissue degeneration and degradation. (Think of that slimy stuff under chicken skin- THATS fascia.)
It allows muscles to change shape as they are both stretched (extension) and shortened (contracted).
When Fascia is stretched beyond its normal tensile capacity, it begins to tear. Keep in mind that these tears can be so microscopic that they never show up with our current cache of advanced imaging techniques such as MRI.
These “Fascial Tears” can be caused by SPORTS INJURIES, REPETITIVE MOTION, ACCIDENTS, POSTURE, FALLS, CHILD-BEARING, ABUSE, STRESS etc. Luckily, these Fascial Tears will heal. Regrettably, they often heal incorrectly: in a knotted, warped, “bundle” of connective tissue . Sometimes these bundles will release, sometimes they form into “adhesions”- where they start causing outlying muscles to become stuck together as well.
From time to time a muscle is impacted (contact sports, falls, abuse, etc) or overused / over-stretched (lifting weights, running, over-training, heavy or repetitive jobs, etc), collagen microfibers form in between adjacent layers of fascia and bind them together. The body does this in order to make a sort of internal “cast” so that the muscles can heal. This is called “Splinting”
Unfortunately, these microfibrils or “knots” may not automatically go away after the area has healed, and they tend to accumulate over time. This means that over time, the stretchy, collagen-based tissues (particularly muscles and fascia) get ever more stiff and less flexible .
This is also true of Stress. When we are stressed, our bodies produce certain hormones that can makes us think better- for a period. but if the stress level is not reduced, then those same hormones can muddle our thinking. and while they may help out thinking, they start to take a toll on the body. Our brains may be getting more glucose, which means our muscles are not- so what little they have is used up and our bodies start to revolt- with stiffness and pain. Clear signlas that were stop whjat we are doing. But when its 3pm and you don’t stop working until 6pm- what are you supposed to do? Stop?
That may be what happens in a perfect world, but most of live in an imperfect world. We cant just “stop” So we need ways to help our bodies.
This is where massage can help.
Physical manipulation of tissues helps the body remember where it is SUPPOSED to be. That it can “Let Go” of those areas, that the “splinting” is not necessary. The manipulation of these tissues gets blood flowing into those areas, brings in the “slimy stuff” as lubricant and “unknots” the muscles.
Massage also lowers blood pressure, reduces the amount of stress hormones produced, eases the central nervous system into a relaxed state, lowers blood sugar all of which helps one feel better.
All of this alleviates pain, increases Range of Motion, increases flexibility and with all of that the production of different stress hormones is reduce or eliminated- thereby making your whole life experience that much better. Less pain. Less Stress.
Massage is Self Care.
Self Care is Health Care.