Yes, go on and love that stuff! What is Fascia (say; fah-sha) anyway? Glad you asked! In a nutshell, it's connective tissue. But it's pervasive, it's everywhere inside your body. Covering organs, muscles, nerves, blood and lymph vessels. If you've ever wondered why you can't touch your toes or why your internal organs don't go knocking about or how your muscles stay attached to bones, it's Fascia. Not only does it keep things in place but it also absorbs and transmits force, works together with the muscular system to creat smooth, efficient movement. But when it becomes cranky due to poor posture, lack of movement, stress, repetitive movements, lack of flexibility....all of these elements can make your fascia super cranky as well as you. Adhesions begin to form within the fascial fibers like snags on a sweater and they are really tough to get rid of. Lack of activity can cement the once supple fibers into place. Chronic stress causes the fibers to thicken as your fascia tries to protect underlying muscle. In it's healthy state, fascia is smooth and supple and glides quite easily allowing you to enjoy full range of movement.
Here's the good news, damage to fascia is reversible. You can take care of your fascia and those sticky adhesions by moving. Take a few minutes in the morning to stretch like a cat and really stretch out. Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Fascia loves a hydrated environment so drink up. Give your muscles a good stretch (just like my dog Juno!). When your muscles are chronically tight, the surrounding fascia follows suit and tightens along with the muscles. Over time, this causes the fascia to become rigid which can compress muscles and nerves.
You can also stretch your fascia. Once it's tightened up and locked down, it's very resistent to change. Because fascia can withstand up to 2,000 pounds of pressure (impressive, right?) per square inch, you cannot force a change. A gentle slow stretch is the way to go. Think Yin Yoga class. Fascia responds much slower than muscles. Hold those stretches for 3-5 minutes, relax into it and breathe. Also remind yourself to just relax.
Take pauses throughout your day, breathe, and let things go. The more we do this, the better we become at maintaining our calm.
I personally LOVE using therapy balls for self myofascial release. I teach these techniques to my clients all the time and use them on myself. If you have never heard of this technique, please email me and I will gladly walk you through it.
And lastly, my favorite, see your Massage Therapist who can help you care for your fascia. Don't let it pile up, don't live with the nagging tightness and limited range of motion, restricting you from doing your favorite activities. Massage is quite an effective approach to releasing and unwinding fascial adhesions. Practice some self love this February (and all year long, really and truly) and give your self the gift of healthy fascia!