A Google image search for “musculoskeletal system” will provide seemingly endless drawings of skeletons and pink muscles.
But what holds our muscles together? What connects them to each other, to organs, and to bones?
Picture an orange. When the skin is torn away, we see the white fibrous material that holds skin to flesh. We also see the segments of the orange are encased in a membrane-like sac and connected by the same white material. Furthermore, when we break open a segment, we see that it is comprised of many tiny sacs, all stuck together.
Like the orange, the muscles and organs in our bodies are both divided and connected by fascia. Fascia runs through us: a web of connective tissue beneath our skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and groups of muscles and organs. (1, 2)
When our fascia isn’t healthy, we feel it throughout our bodies.
Chronic strain and pain in our muscles and nerves can be caused by unhealthy fascia. Injuries, stress, age, habitual movement patterns (such as poor posture), as well as over- and misuse of body structures and long periods of inactivity are just some of the factors leading to unhealthy fascia, which is dehydrated, glue-like, hard, and tight. Unhealthy fascia can feel stiff and can be the cause of chronic pain and tension. (2, 3, 4)
Healthy fascia feels GOOD.
So, how do we keep our fascia healthy? Here are three simple things you can do:
– Hydrate. It’s not only important to drink plenty of water, but also to get the water to your thirsty fascia. Try yoga, Pilates, a roller, or cardio to get your blood pumping!
– Varied Movement. Yoga, Pilates, and cardio are also great because they offer a variety of movement. Repetitive movement strains fascia over time; it’s better to change it up as often as possible. If you use exercise machines, make sure to change tempo or weight from time to time and mix in some other activities such as barre or cycling. Also, make sure to give your fascia a rest from time to time.
– Relax and De-stress. Massage, acupuncture, a walk in the park; anything that relieves stress and tension will promote healthy fascia. (6)