Fascia – What is it, and how does it affect me?

The reason for this article, is simply, that we refer to fascia fairly frequently when discussing things with patients, and yet the majority of the population aren’t really aware of it or it’s significance in health, injury and treatment.

There are many easily identifiable parts in the human body that we all recognise – muscles, bones, liver, stomach etc, but in fact, a massive proportion of the human body is composed of connective tissue.

Connective tissue is the background “mesh” or framework that all the cells “sit” in. Largely composed of collagen fibres it’s the tissue that binds everything together, holds parts in the places they’re supposed to be and connects structure to structure. Some is adapted to form more obvious things such as tendons and ligaments, and much exists in the form of layers and “sheets.” This is fascia.

Why is it important? (apart from the fact that it holds us together!!)

It provides support and pathways for blood vessels. Some connective tissue is involved in the formation of lymph, important for the removal of toxins and waste from the body. It’s richly endowed with nerve endings.

If there is restriction of some kind in this tissue, it compromises the body’s ability to work properly to maintain healthy tissue in the affected region, and (important this,) it often hurts! Fascial pain is often described as poorly localised (aches, but you can’t tell exactly where the pain’s coming from), and persistent.

Imagine a sheet of clingfilm. Now imagine heating part of it with a hot air dryer – it would contract. If this represents fascia, then anything which needs to pass through it will be restricted, its flexibility will be reduced, altering movement of the parts it’s related to, and the “pulling” or altered stretch will be uncomfortable and often painful.

As therapists, when we work to improve range of movement in your joints, or relax “tight” areas, whatever techniques are used, it’s the fascia/connective tissues we’re working on. Improving the pliability of these tissues is a really important component of treatment and recovery.

Fascia is everywhere – to quote Douglas Adams, it’s responsible for “The fundamental interconnectedness of all things!” Well, all things in your body, at least!

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