Fascia 101: What It Is and Why It Matters

Jean-Claude Guim / Photo

Lindsay Courcelle
A HEALTHY DOSE

The more I work with the human body, the more I realize that we simply aren’t machines. We are individuals with our own lifetime of physical experiences, starting with birth, then childhood tumbles, sports injuries, car accidents, and surgeries. We hope to not experience too many surgeries or traumatic accidents, but even still, we have our day-to-day activities, work and posture that affect how our bodies feel. As much as we’d like to say that our back pain is a result of this or our headache comes from that, the reality is that there is never a simple answer that takes our whole body into consideration.

Whether you believe in God or evolution or anything else, there is no denying that our bodies have an amazing architectural structure. Our muscles, blood vessels, nerves and more weave through our body majestically; our bones and organs are suspended within this mass. What all of these structures have in common is that they are covered, surrounded by, supported by, and interpenetrated by fascia.

Fascia is our connective tissue, and it runs through and between every single cell of your body. It runs head to toe, without interruption. So why haven’t you heard of it? One reason is that Western medicine was built on ideas formed by dissecting our bodies into smaller and smaller parts, missing the connectivity that exists within. In a cadaver, fascia appears solid, very unlike its fluid appearance in a living being. And so, it has been scraped away by medical students, in order to get a better look at the other structures within.

What scientists are now finding is that fascia plays critical roles within our living bodies. Fascia is fluid, and uses water, gel and fibers to miraculously build structures like the cornea of your eye and the valves of your heart, and to support all of our vital organs. Video footage from a French surgeon’s microscopic camera shows how the fluid-filled tubules of our fascia look amazingly like a dew-covered living spider web, where the strands of the web slide upon each other or disconnect and reconnect elsewhere.

When in the normal healthy state, fascia has the ability to stretch and move without restriction. Problems arise when one experiences physical or emotional trauma, scarring, or inflammation, and the fascia loses its pliability.

Fascia is the body’s shock absorber, and so, when you have a car accident, or fall, or high-velocity impact, additional connective tissue is generated as a form of compensation during the healing process. As these accidents build up in your body, the tissue starts to solidify and lose its fluid nature. Think of losing range of motion in your shoulder after a fall, or your neck feeling stiff ever since that car accident years ago.

Many people have car accidents from which they notice no injury. However, it does not take more than common sense to realize that even accidents in which we appear unscathed have some effect on our body. Over time, as the accidents and injuries build up, our bodies might give us the first signal that we need to take time to rest and recover. Often we ignore those messages from our body until it is screaming in pain. Only then do many of us seek out healing.

Remember that architectural structure I mentioned? The pillars and scaffolding of our bodies are greatly affected by surgeries, even those done laparoscopically. I often hear about “non-invasive” procedures that seem incredibly invasive. Surgeries are absolutely an important tool in modern medicine, but the scars they leave behind make your tissue dense and white, preventing the flow of energy and nutrition, and restricting your range of motion. Restrictions in your fascia exert a crushing pressure of up to 2000 pounds per square inch. It’s no wonder people have diagnoses of pinched nerves, asthma, or chronic migraines.

The next time your head hurts, don’t just focus on your head. Think of that abdominal surgery long ago. As the scar has healed, the tissue may have created a tug that extends all the way up to your head, just as a snag in one part of a sweater pulls on the rest of it. Every part of us is connected; front to back, top to bottom. Fascial restrictions do not show up in standard tests like x-rays and CAT scans, so a high percentage of people who suffer from chronic pain or dysfunction may be misdiagnosed.

So, what can you do to release your fascial restrictions? You can see a myofascial release therapist like myself or someone else who has been trained by fascial expert John Barnes. You can also attend a myofascial self-treatment class like those being offered at Cobra Gymnastics in Rutland or Zen Revolution in Manchester. At these workshops, you will learn how to heal injuries, rid yourself of aches and pains, relax your mind, and increase your overall well-being.

If nothing else, you can help yourself by simply listening to your body. When you are in the middle of stacking wood but your back starts to hurt, give yourself a chance to rest. If you work at a desk, stand up and stretch, even just for five minutes. Notice the tension in your body and let it soften. These small changes can make a big difference, and will affect you from head to toe, mind, fascia and soul.

Lindsay Courcelle, CMT is a myofascial release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural health advocate. Email her at alchemyMFR@gmail.com. Website: www.alchemyMFR.com

Lindsay Courcelle

Lindsay Courcelle, CMT is a Myofascial Release therapist, part-time vegetable farmer, and natural health advocate.

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