Dynamic, refreshed and healthy with elastic fascia

13 June 2016

It holds everything in our body together, and ensures that everything inside stays in its place while remaining movable. The more elastic the fascia, the more dynamic, refreshed and healthier we feel.

Research into fascia is a young science that currently challenges mainly physiotherapists and orthopaedists. This research has found that a large part of apparent spinal injuries and damage to the spinal discs can in fact be traced back to injuries of the fascia. It is known that fascia functions like a sensory organ, has pain receptors and can pass on information.

What is fascia?

Fascia is a fine, three-dimensional tissue that pervades the entire body. Its connective tissue sheets surround every muscle, bone, and organ. It consists of collagen, elastin and water. Fascia has no beginning and no end. It provides structure to the body and stabilises it internally.

What are the functions of fascia?

Fascia protects our organs, nerves and muscles, and acts like a kind of shock absorber. It allows us to use the power of our muscles by storing the energy of the tension and then releasing it like a projectile when the muscle relaxes. Fascia thus mediates between bones, tendons and muscle fibres, and serves as their communication system. Fascia provides stability and elasticity, as when it’s in a healthy state, it is both firm and flexible. With increasing age, one-sided use or neglect, the naturally soft and smooth fascia can stiffen and form adhesions.

Why should we exercise our fascia?

Fascia can atrophy if it’s not challenged and used. Lack of exercise, stress, or a relieving posture can make it become porous. This can lead to small tears or inflammation. The fascia then thickens and presses on nerves. This leads to blockages, which in turn result in immovability, stiffness and pain.

For many people, the problem isn’t from having weak muscles, but rather, from muscles that are not well stretched. We, as organisms, need length, space, room – whatever you want to call it – in order to function. This applies in the same way to muscles, nerves, organs, and to breathing. When there isn’t enough room, fascia shrinks and loses its elasticity.

What fascia like

Fascia needs stimuli. That way, nutrients reach the cells, waste products are removed, and the tissue keeps renewing itself. It likes being stretched and twisted, as well as bouncing movements, such as lightly bobbing and gentle jumping. Rolling out, and an awareness of the sensation is good for it.

How can you exercise the fascia?

The foam roll is a tried and tested tool (available for instance at www.blackroll.com). Individual muscle fibres and their surrounding fascia are rolled out until they are soft and relaxed. A spiky ball can help to relieve localised tension points. Targeted pressure on that point for about 40 to 60 seconds – triggering it – releases hardened structures. Alternatively, you can use a rolled up yoga or camping mat instead of the foam roll, and a tennis ball instead of the spiky ball.

How to do it

Roll out your spine:

Lie on your back on the foam roll. The roll should be positioned at your sacrum (just above the buttocks). Bend your legs, fold your arms behind your head and tension your abdominal muscles. Roll up and down your back, increasing the range of the movement with more practice.

Release back and shoulder tension:

Stand close to a wall. Position the spiky ball between the wall and the painful area of your back. Gently press your back against the spiky ball. Hold the pressure and bear the discomfort for a short while. Back off a little without letting the ball fall. Repeat several times.

Roll it out: The foam roll and the spiky ball are ideal helpers to regenerate, mobilise and activate the fascia.