June is Skin Health Month and also my personal favorite month (as my birthday is in June!). What better way to celebrate than to discuss my new found favorite topic FASCIA! So what is this new buzz word?
As John Barnes explains, “The fascial system surrounds, infuses with, and has the potential to profoundly influence every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel, organ, and cell of the body. Fascia also separates, supports, connects and protects everything. This three dimensional web of connective tissue is alive and ever changing as the body demands. Thus it is a network for information exchange, influencing and influenced by every structure, system and cell in the organism. Like air and gravity, its influence is so all-pervasive that we have tended to take it for granted.”
WOW! What a powerful statement. We often move through life and our busy schedules abusing our bodies without even knowing it until something breaks down and we experience pain, dysfunction, fatigue, etc. Deep inside however, our bodies hold onto this trauma, whether it be from day to day experiences, repressed memories from your childhood and distant past, or some might even argue from a previous life. While these emotions and behaviors get trapped inside our bodies, we simultaneously move into positions of tension and stress...habitually creating more fascial crosslinks or intertwining of tissues. The longer we go without addressing this deeper layer, the longer it can take to unwind these structures and return the body to a relaxed state.
So what does this have to do with skin? As mentioned above, fascia has connections to everything - including the skin - and it uses the skin to help send the body (and myofascial release therapists) a message. When we begin to dive deeper into the fascial layer and release restrictions, the body enters a parasympathetic state and increases blood circulation creating a redness response in the skin. Sometimes this response happens in the actual area of the body being addressed, but more often it appears somewhere else in the body entirely! This reveals fascia’s connections throughout the entire body, and also guides us on where we should address next. Our subconscious minds are incredibly smart, telling our bodies to constantly adapt and change to support our needs. Although you might be experiencing pain or sensation in one area of the body, it could be related to somewhere else entirely. Think of wearing a tight sweater. When you pull it from the top it often gets stuck somewhere else. Fascia works in a similar way, with symptoms often appearing in an entirely different area than the actual issue.
Like our skin, fascia is composed of collagen and elastin fibers that help absorb tensile forces in the body. Then there is a polysaccharide gel complex that fills the spaces between fibers. This complex allows the muscle fibers to slide over each other with minimal friction as well as absorb the compressive forces of movement. As long as the forces are not too great, the gel is designed to absorb the shock of tensile forces and disperse them throughout the body. If fascia is restricted at the time of trauma, they are unable to perform their job and often result in injury. The same result can take place overtime through microtrauma, such as having leg length discrepancies due to a rotated pelvis. Every step further imbalances the body, forcing the body to compensate through muscular spasm, fascial restriction and PAIN.
Myofascial release techniques can be performed to help reduce these symptoms. The enormous pressure of the fascial restrictions are eliminated from pain-sensitive structures, producing increased range of motion, alleviating symptoms and restoring the normal quality of motion and the body’s ability to absorb shock. When having these techniques performed it is important to rehydrate the tissues because, as described above, this gel-like matrix is composed of mostly WATER. Releasing the toxins and restrictions and refueling the body with hydration allows for deep tissue healing, as well as superficial skin results, and even emotional releases! Find a myofascial therapist near you to experience the results for yourself!
Your Physical Therapist,
This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.