Stuck on Fascia? It's Stuck on You!
If you’ve ever handled a piece of chicken breast in preparation to cook, you’ve seen fascia. It’s typically pearly in color, thin but can be difficult to cut, and is very durable. The human body, like your chicken breast, is completely covered in it and may be more of a source of pain that we originally though.
What is Fascia?
Fascia in Friendswood is a type of connective tissue, primarily made of collagen, that wraps around or anchors all the tissues and organs in the body. Fascia is also 3-dimensional, which means it doesn’t just wrap around tissue, but it also runs through tissue. Fascia acts like tightly wrapped support for the whole body. It is the ‘stuff’ that holds us together. Fascia that wraps, covers, and goes through muscles is called myofascia.
Tom Meyers, author of Anatomy Trains, stated that “Individual muscles acting on bones across joints’ simply does not adequately explain human stability and movement.” Fascia provides the body a balance of tension along with elasticity and some contractility to allow for smooth, unrestricted movement. According to his work, the body is wrapped following what’s called meridian lines, which literally connects us from head to toe.
The muscles and bones are not sufficient to support the many intricacies of the human body. Without fascia to help support the body, we could essentially fold in on ourselves over time.
Fascia’s Role in Pain
Although the role of fascia in the body has been poorly understood, we are beginning to understand more about it, including why our fascia causes pain. Fascia is being put into the pain spotlight due to this very important role in wrapping tissue.
“Deep fascia has long been considered a source of pain, secondary to nerve pain receptors becoming enmeshed within the pathological changes to which fascia are subject… They can modify the mechanical properties of deep fasciae and damage the function of underlying muscles or organs.”
Connective tissue must have freedom of movement to glide across surrounding tissue to prevent densification, or more simply put, fascial adhesions. “Diet, exercise, and overuse syndromes are able to modify the viscosity of loose connective tissue within fascia, causing densification, an alteration that is easily reversible. Trauma, surgery, diabetes, and aging alter the fibrous layers of fasciae, leading to fascial fibrosis.”
"Painful Connections: densification versus fibrosis of fascia"
Special cells known as Hyaluronan occurs between the fascia and muscle. It acts to allow smooth gliding of the tissue over each other. Think about wrapping a flexible tube in saran wrap. If you were to flex the tube repeatedly, the plastic would stick together and bunch up. At that point, the saran wrap would become restricted, causing the tube its wrapped over to also become restricted and no longer capable of its natural flexibility.
“The HA within the deep fascia facilitates the free sliding of two adjacent fibrous fascial layers, thus promoting the normal function associated with the deep fascia. If the HA assumes a more packed conformation, or more generally, if the loose connective tissue inside the fascia alters its density, the behavior of the entire deep fascia and the underlying muscle would be compromised. This, we predict, may be the basis of the common phenomenon known as "myofascial pain."”
"Hyaluronan within fascia in the etiology of myofascical pain"
The presence of trigger points, a muscle contraction occurring at the neuromuscular junction, are also known to occur in the fascia itself due to its contractility. The presence of these trigger points, which may lie dormant or “latent” is capable of referring pain across these lines of fascia. Furthermore, women may experience more myofascial pain than men due to the presence of more female dominant hormones such as estrogen and relaxin.
“Many epidemiologic, clinical, and experimental findings point to sex differences in myofascial pain in view of the fact that adult women tend to have more myofascial problems with respect to men. It is possible that one of the stimuli to sensitization of fascial nociceptors could come from hormonal factors such as estrogen and relaxin, that are involved in extracellular matrix and collagen remodeling and thus contribute to functions of myofascial tissue.”
“Hormone receptor expression in human fascial tissue”
Although more research on fascia is well over due, it is becoming more essential in understanding the mechanisms of myofascial pain syndromes and could potentially shed light into other chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Methods of Myofascial Release
Another wonderful property of fascia is that it is thixotropic. Thixotropy is the term to describe something that becomes more malleable and pliable when mechanically manipulated or heated up.
Applications of modalities such as myofascial release, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization, massage therapy and self-myofascial release or “foam rolling” is important in not only relieving conditions affecting the joints and movement but also in prevention of such adhesions and potential postural degradation in the long term. Movement in general, such as physical activity is also important in keeping the fascia malleable and healthy.
Because posture is so important in keeping the body’s organs functioning properly, maintaining healthy joints and nervous system, it is also essential to maintain healthy fascia through regular maintenance and physical activity. Here at Forever Well Chiropractic, we can help prevent such conditions by using myofascial release modalities, providing therapeutic exercise, and help you find relief from myofascial pain.