Fascia is the connective tissue that surrounds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle. It helps hold things in place and provides some internal structure and if you have persistent pain this may be your culprit.
Fascia has six times more nerves than muscles making it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, injured or scarred it can alter shape and that leads to trouble.
Fascia has really gotten some steam in North America from a guy named Tom Myers of Anatomy Trains. We are years behind the Europeans in how we treat it but Chinese Medicine has had equivalents all along.
Some authors misguidedly translate Chinese Medical terms into English words, but it is just not that easy. A popular word in Chinese Medicine is Shen, often translated as “spirit”. I have two 300 page books explaining Shen and there are still aspects of Shen not covered. So one word is not going to do it.
I am going to talk in plain English (I hope) about fascia. The basis for this article is two courses I took from Tom Myers and guests. There is SOOOOOOOOOOOOO much more to learn but lets start with this.
One example is Tom Myers thinks fascia is a terrible word for it and it should be called Biomechanical Auto-Regulatory System ‘BARS’, that’s for another day. Ow and generally they agree there are 25 different types of fascia, also topic for another day.
What is fascia, well in the picture of a slice of cow leg. Most of the white is fascia. Interestingly if you leech the calcium out of the bone, it also is mostly fascial tissue and acts like a shaped sponge.
Have pain in the muscle? Well research shows 85% is contraction or strain in the fascia causing your sensation of muscle pain. Think of you as an Orange. If your skin is the orange, your muscles are the segments and the white in the orange is fascia. It’s between everything and when it gets irritated it changes shape and therefore muscle function.
The good news for me (and our Patients) is Acupuncture, Tui Na (Chinese style massage), cupping, certain heat therapies and other therapies I use at All Body Care, all treat Myo-fascial pain syndromes. It makes sense as Chinese Medicine is 2000+ years old, they would have had to make therapies to heal this sort of condition.
Movement is key. They called it “felting”. The picture below on the left is a image of health tissue and on the right is felting and that guy is going to be STIFF! Just regular movements make a huge difference.
The tissue can recover but it takes lots of therapeutic movement. The best example I know of is Tai Chi. Another great contribution from Asia. Why is it better than many other movements? Tai Chi moves in and out of end range at a pace shown to simulate the proper organization of fascia. However most any regular safe movements are going to help.
Two crazy things I learned from the course. Falls are the 5th leading cause of death after the age of 75. Behind Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke and cancer. After 65, following a hip of femur fracture, there is a 40-50% chance of dying in the next 12 months. Take Tai Chi, you’ll thank me for it. And get treatments to alleviate stiffness.
Not surprising hydration is a big component of facial health (and all of you). Endlessly at work I hear people tell me they drink plenty of water. They may but is it going in the body’s tissues?
To get into the body generally there needs to be some ‘action’. Which is? You may have guessed exercise or movements of some sort. The body’s fascial systems are a multi layered sponges of sorts. They need to be squeezed, which pushes the fluid out and then refreshed fluids can enter.
The most common term I heard in the courses was ‘Slide and Glide’. If the body slides and glides over itself, things will go well. When there is sticking, the massive amount of nerves get jangled and you get sensations (often pain).
The answer then is to get in the layers of the body and shake it up, move it around, un-stick it. I think in 10 years most therapists will use the word fascia where they use the word muscle now.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and all it’s branches has been treating facia and sore tight bodies for thousands of years and I will continue to learn about it from both the east and western systems. It’s super interesting.
So get moving – slide and glide.
Kelowna Acupuncture & Other Natural Therapies