Inside everyone is a web of tissue that controls how we move and feel. When it’s out of whack it can leave your spidey senses tingling in pain. Here, Dr. Danny Porcelli, D.C. tells you how to tame the pain.
Picture a fly struggling in a spider’s web. The fly fights and the entire web pulls and strains. If you were to pick up a stick and poke the web you would see that every part of the web moves, and if you poke too hard the web will break. Inside your body is a 3D web that covers, connects, and penetrates about every inch of your body from head to toe. This web wraps around bones, muscles, organs, nerves, vessels and joints, providing a living framework for your body. It holds all of your parts together while providing stability, assisting in movement, and communicating with other tissues. The web is so extensive that you could connect any two points in your body by tracing along its path. Not only is this web one of the most important tissues in your body, it’s also the least understood. This web is your fascia.
Why is Fascia so Important?
Fascia, tendons, muscles and ligaments, collectively called soft tissue, are interconnected, and each effects how the others feel and function. Fascia has traditionally been ignored by anatomists and doctors in order to focus on larger structures like muscles, bones, organs, and vessels, but now research is being done regarding its significant role in health and wellness. Fascia appears throughout the body like a fuzzy spider web and is constantly changing. Each night, cells called fibroblasts continually make new strings of fascia in your body. But when you’re injured or when areas of your body are excessively strained due to exercise, injury, poor posture, or lack of movement, the body can build up too much of the stringy web, causing the soft tissue to become stuck together which leads to stiffness, pain, weakness, and dysfunction. If left untreated, this can lead to decreased range of motion, chronic pain, and injury.
For a visual of how this works, wrap a rubber band between your thumb and index fingers, and then stretch your fingers apart. The band should stretch smoothly demonstrating an example of healthy fascia and soft tissue. Now pinch the rubber band in the middle with your opposite thumb and index fingers. Again, stretch your fingers apart. Watch and feel how the rubber band stretches. It stretches more on both sides of where your fingers are pinching. The area underneath your pinched fingers barely moves. This is an example of unhealthy soft tissue that is usually felt as stiffness, weakness, and pain.
Healthier Fascia Means a Healthier You
So how does someone get healthy fascia or unhealthy fascia? Healthy fascia is derived from proper movement (like picking up a child with proper spinal alignment or exercising with correct form), good posture, avoidance of repetitive stresses, avoiding injuries and traumas, hydration, and preventative maintenance. Unhealthy fascia is cause by the opposite: Improper movement, poor posture, repetitive stresses, injuries and traumas, dehydration, and a lack of preventative maintenance. Here are some simple ways to improve the health of your fascia, and keep it in good condition:
Keep yourself moving. Perform a variety of movements and exercises throughout the day. One training session a day has countless benefits but still is not enough to keep the spider webs out if the rest of the day you are sedentary. The key is quality, full range of motion movements, at least every 20 minutes.
Maintain good posture. Poor posture strains the fascia and soft tissue which causes more to build up to support the weak area. This is a repetitive cycle that leads to hard fibrotic tissue.
Avoid repetitive movements and injuries. Repetitive movements and exercises that require use of the same parts of the body within the same range of motions for long periods of time (like running, cycling, tennis, and golf) can lead to fascial restrictions. It is imperative to do preventative maintenance when you frequently exercise.
Hydrate. Adequate hydration makes soft tissue supple and helps tissues to glide over each other more easily, leading to less injuries.
See a professional. If you want a faster, stronger, more flexible body, if you think you have some webs that have built up, or if you have recently injured yourself, then see someone who has experience with fascia and soft tissue. A professional can identify the problem areas, restore your function, and teach you how to avoid getting stuck in your own web. At XOC Chiropractic we take a special interest in fascial and soft tissue conditions of the entire body. Feel free to stop by and learn more or call to set up a complimentary consultation and we can take the first step of many to a healthier and happier you.