You may have never heard the word “fascia”, as it’s not the most popular topic of conversation. What you should know is that without it, we’d be a loosey-goosey mass of bone, skin, and guts.
The fascia is the network of connective tissue that is under your skin. It’s what joins cartilage, ligaments, and soft tissue to your bones. It also covers muscle and internal organs and allows our bodies to move. For such an important bodily system, it really doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Constricted fascia can cause pain and limited range of movement. Massage therapists, physiotherapists, yoga teachers, acupuncturists, and other healthcare providers recognize the importance of fascia; it’s often the starting point for any form of movement therapy.
Thomas Myers is an integrative manual therapist and author of the seminal text on fascia entitled Anatomy Trains. Myers describes fascia as “the 3-D spider web of fibrous, gluey, and wet proteins” that bind together the seventy trillion cells that make up our bodies. (1) Below are basics of what you should know about fascia from the book, which is used as the instruction manual for movement therapists in various specialties.
What is Fascia: 9 Facts You Never Knew
Find out what is fascia and how to treat it right.
1. Fascia Should be Treated Like a Sponge
It’s not enough to drink an adequate amount of water each day; fascia by definition is a biological fabric that must move. Think of it as a thin sponge that absorbs water and has to be wrung out through body movement (such as exercise, foam rolling, body work, and yoga) so that it can absorb more water and keep everything moving properly.
2. It’s Made of Collagen
Your body contains more collagen than any other protein. It’s not just in the skin but in bones, muscles, and all connective tissues, including the fascia. Myers defines fascia as “all collagenous soft connective tissues”. Collagen is impressive stuff: there are at least sixteen types of collagen in the body and some are proportionally stronger than steel. (2)
3. It’s Attached to Muscle
This web of collagen attaches to muscles—that’s how they are able to move without flopping about every which way. Fascia is like a muscle sheath, covering them while they move beneath. It is normally extraordinarily flexible.
4. It Can Change Your Skin’s Appearance
Superficial fat cells lie between skin and fascia. (3) It’s this fat layer that can lump together, forming what we know as cellulite. By adjusting the connective tissue beneath, fat lobules can move and disperse, smoothing the appearance of the skin.
Because fascia is a web of tissue, you don’t just rub where you have fat deposits and they’ll go away. A professional movement therapist (e.g., massage therapist, kinesiologist, physiotherapist) knows how to appropriately move fascia to release constriction, allowing for ease of movement and potentially reducing cellulite dimpling. Self-myofascial release can be achieved with the use of foam rollers, massage, and Rolfing but unless you know what you’re doing, you probably won’t see any changes. Do your research if you go this route and visit a professional for advice if you can.
“Rolfing is a method of hands-on body work and movement training that helps people to have better posture, fewer aches and pains, greater flexibility, more energy and greater ease in their body. Rolfing is named after American biochemist Dr. Ida Rolf who developed the method in the 1960s.” (4)