Fascia is the biological fabric that holds us together. It is a connective tissue that surrounds all your muscles, muscle groups, bones and organs holding them all in place. In certain areas of the body fascia goes by different names but it is in fact a continuous sheet of supportive tissue (predominately collagen fibres) that envelops the entire body.
Fascia plays an important role in the support and function of our bodies. It is a tensional fluid structure, that in a healthy state is relaxed and freely moveable. When it becomes dehydrated it can restrict mobility and risk erosion, injury or even rupture. Compared to muscular tissue when fascial tissue is stretched quickly, rather than recoiling back to its resting position, it will tear (which is the most common cause of connective tissue injury). If stretched slow enough the tissue will deform its plasticity to change and retain the new shape (this stretch if also know as a “creep” by manual therapists).
Once stretched, fascial tissue does not “snap” back to its original form. A good example of this would be to slowly stretch out a plastic grocery bag. The bag stretches and forms into a new shape, but will never return to a regular bag. Over time however, if the fascial surfaces are brought together and kept there, new fibres will begin to form and rebind the area that was torn.
The Fascia within the body is divided into what is know as myofascial “meridians”. These are sheets and lines that wrap and weave around the body transmitting strain and movement.
There are seven main fascial Lines throughout the body:
The Superficial Back Line, Superficial Front Line, Lateral Line, Spiral Line, Arm Lines, Functional Lines and Deep Front Line
Restrictions or Adhesions in the Fascia can happen due to inflammation, trauma, surgery, pathology or postural imbalances. These restrictions create abnormal tension patterns and can actually transmit symptoms from one area of the body to another through the imbalance of tissue.
How Can Manual Therapy Help?
Manual Therapists (massage therapists, physiotherapists) will first do a fascial assessment to determine the direction of the adhesion, then they will use a variety of connective tissue techniques including skin rolling, myofascial release, direct fascial release, and frictions in order to release the restriction(s). This release is done without the application of oils and lotions, and can be described as a slight burning sensation similar to that of “rope burn”. Connective tissue techniques increase the flexibility of the tissue by first moving toward and then beyond the restriction lengthening the fascia and creating minor ruptures of the collagen fibres.
These techniques have been shown to decrease muscle tension or neuromuscular tone, reduce pain and hypertonicity, increase local circulation, improve immune system and nervous system function, increase joint range of motion, enhance muscle performance, and increase muscle extensibility.
What Can YOU Do To Help?
- Drink More Water: keeping hydrated will allow the fascia in your body to move freely and prevent adhesions.
- Regular Massage Treatments to release adhesions, increase circulation and maintain range of motion.
- Stay Active & Stretch: whatever your fitness level, the more you move the more your fascia will appreciate it! Yoga is a great way to gently stretch! You can also use a foam roller or massage ball, be gentle and slow in your movements, and when you find an area of tension hold sustained pressure for three to five minutes.
Article Written by:
Kala Martin, RMT
Clifford, P., & Andrade, C. (2001). Outcome-Based Massage. Hagerstwon: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Myers, Thomas W. (2009) Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. Toronto: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
Rattray, Fiona, Linda, Ludwig. (2000) Clinical Massage Therapy. Toronto: Talus Inc.