Fascia - This incredible system of connective tissue in your body does amazing things that we are just beginning to understand. Because I get deeply acquainted with fascia on a daily basis through my massages and body work, I am beginning to see how it acts when things go wrong in the body. (watch the video above to see how amazing fascia looks in real life)
Let's do a test right now. Grab some skin on a part of your body, preferably where you have frequent injury or pain. Does it hurt to lift it up and away from the muscle? You are grabbing skin, but you are also lifting fascia away from the muscle and the pain you are probably feeling is fascial pain.
Before we go on, lets have a really generalized version of what fascia is. You have an entire network of connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs (think of chicken skin, and the stringy stuff that you see when you pull it away from the meat).
Fascia has a large list of super important responsibilities in the body and this list grows as more research is done on the fascial system. We are just now starting to understand how
important it is to keep this seemingly innocent body part healthy and happy.
The important part to understand is that fascia runs throughout the entire body, and it connects one band of fascia to another. It literally is one piece connected at different points. Because it's all connected, it all communicates together. If one section is having issues, it can affect fascia in seemingly unrelated parts of the body.
Here are some of your superficial
and deep fascial lines. See how a restriction in your neck can affect things all the way in your feet. If its stuck in one part, it pulls everything else like a snag in a t-shirt.
What does this snag feel like? If it is minor, you may just have a persistent pain, that hurts anytime you do a certain activity. Maybe your lower back starts to hurt if you bend over too much or your hips hurt if you sit too much. If this snag has been allowed to thicken through inactivity, stress, lack of sleep, or lack of stretching, it can cause more snags in other parts of the body, and these snags start to shorten the length of the fascia. Shortened fascia=pain. These snags don't receive the fluid they need and become dehydrated and even more stuck. Dehydrated fascia actually hardens and will have to be manually scraped with a tool to get it to release.
Think of fascia as a sleeping bag around the muscle. When its happy and relaxed and healthy, it comfortably surrounds the muscle and helps it to communicate and exchange fluids. When it is tight, it acts as a vacuum seal that makes it so the muscle can no longer stretch and glide like it should. It doesn't receive fluids, and nerve endings get hyper sensitized.
Take this scenario: A former football player has a hamstring injury that he never properly rehabbed and his fascia is now tight in areas around the leg. He goes to play a game of catch with his buddies and starts to use his leg like he used to running around. That hamstring no longer can stretch to accommodate how far he is reaching his leg, and he feels a tug in the muscle as he races down the field. He can now barely walk for the next month with a strained hamstring muscle. A couple of years later, this same scenario happens again. Does this sound familiar?
As a Massage Therapist, I deal with fascia as much as I deal with muscles. My time is spent releasing fascial restrictions so that muscles can breath and move normally.
Now to talk about what you want to know-
WHY IS YOUR FASCIA MAKING YOU FATIGUED, INJURED, IN PAIN, AND SICK?
In the last few months, I really started to notice patterns in my clients. People with healthy fascia have pretty good general health. Athletes that have achieved that balance are rarely injured and can seemingly go forever.
Those with severe adhesions and dehydrated fascia have a whole host of problems that usually involve chronic pain, chronic fatigue, chronic injury, decreased athletic ability, hormone problems, dry skin, sleep problems, depression, arthritis and so on. These symptoms are common with HPA axis dysorders (Adrenal Fatigue), Overtraining Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, or Chronic Depression.
Because I work on a lot of athletes, I've seen how hard it is for to achieve that ideal balance of work and recovery (I know I never did), and our fascia is suffering for it. Most people that I see that consistently work out or train have some version of this going on. The worse the adhesions and dehydration, it seems the more likely that athlete is to suffer from overtraining, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, and injuries.
I know what it feels like
It was't until recently, though, that I fully understood the pain that can be caused by unhealthy fascia. My whole fall from the Spartan Pro Team is out there and we don't need to rehash what happened, but the pain I experience comes from years and years of endurance sports. Until the last few months, I was still fully experiencing this pain in both of my quads. They would hurt after a short amount of walking. And by hurt, I mean ache and ache and feel weak and shake when I stood. The nerve ache would spread to my lower leg- so basically just make me miserable. The ache in my legs would affect my whole body fatigue. After studying up on Fibromyalgia, this is what a lot of sufferers experience. I hesitate to call mine that because of the success that I've had in fixing it.
But a few months ago, I started experiencing this same pain and weakness in my arms. Both arms, the whole thing. I am not going to lie - I'm a massage therapist - This was pretty devastating. It hurt to hold them up. And when they really hurt, I felt super fatigued and tired all over my body! There was a definite connection. I took a full week off of massaging to find that they got worse with rest????? Being the strong-headed person that I was, I put Strengthtape (KT Tape) all over both arms and did my daily routine. Throughout the day, I felt electrical impulses and goosebumps down my arms. It was a very odd sensation. But by the end of the day, most of my arms felt significantly better! The Strengthtape grabbed my fascia, forced it to stay while my muscles moved (which released some of the adhesion).
Realizing that is was a fascia thing, I used Cupping and Guasha to release superficial and deep pockets of fascia. I slowly got my arms back and the fatigue to diminish. It was so crazy. I started to realize that this is what people with Fibromyalgia and chronic pain suffer with all the time! It was crazy how intense and persistent the pain was, and how fatiguing movement became. It makes you want to stop moving because it hurts, and then it gets worse because then your fascia doesn't get any daily movement. Athletes gets these pockets of adhesion or widespread adhesion, and the only time they can get relief from their fatigue is when they are exercising (the body is pushing at least a little fluid through). But exercise in general is dehydrating, and so when the athlete stops, they feel extremely tired. The amount of time it takes to recover from workouts increases, and pain and injury take over. Rest unfortunately doesn't fix the problem.
Stress = Bad
There's so much I want to write about this, but the main thing to take away is this. The one thing that makes the ground substance in your fascia to harden is STRESS. Stress doesn't differentiate, your body just feels it. This can be anything like:
-intense exercise in already stressed individuals
-lack of recovery between workouts and competitions
(24 hrs is not enough for 90% of humans)
-past stress/ emotional stress, emotional trauma
-lack of proper sleep
-insufficient macros or nutrients
If you are in this boat, then you need to have your fascia released. Massage is vital to manage it - The more you can fit in, the better. The more severe cases need months of work and self care (exercises, rolling, and stretching that you do at home). But if you are someone who suffers from any of this, it's worth it to get your life back. I've had amazing success with Stretching, Cupping, and Guasha in my personal practice and highly recommend these!
Here is what Guasha Looks like:
It is my life's purpose to help people like me through this.
Schedule an appointment with me here! Choose a 90 min first time appointment so that we can do an evaluation.
Check out what else has helped me through Overtraining Syndrome.