By LAURA LEONARD
Doctor of Chiropractic
The Foundation of Osteopathic Research and Clinical Endorsement aka the FORCE group, defines fascia as… “any tissue that contains features capable of responding to mechanical stimuli.
The fascial continuum is the result of the evolution of the perfect synergy among different tissues, liquids, and solids, capable of supporting, dividing, penetrating, feeding, and connecting all the districts of the body”.
Wow…Fascia feeds and supports all districts of the body! Yes, you heard correctly and it’s a biggie. Our fascia is possibly the most important connective tissue layer in our body.
Fascia is a strong, fibrous sheet of tissue that forms the 3D matrix of you. Think of fascia as scaffolding for the muscles, internal organs, circulatory and nervous system. Fascia contains pain receptors, tells our brain where we are in space, gives us tensile strength and affects us emotionally. Old injuries, surgeries and every day posture distort our fascial system in a dysfunctional way decreasing blood flow, pinching nerves, causing chronic pain and muscular imbalances.
Distorted fascia also tells our brain that we are in danger creating a negative feedback loop of dysfunctional breathing and a perception of stress/anxiety.
Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lowered immunity, chronic pain and anxiety are all thought to have roots in the fascial system. People who are hypermobile (with too much flexibility) often suffer the most with these conditions because their fascia is constantly working overtime to stabilize the system. For someone with hypermobility that is inactive the problem compounds and they can end up with significant health issues. It is estimated that 25 percent of the population deals with some degree of hypermobility.
Tech neck from too many hours at a computer is another issue for many of us. The fascia of the chest and diaphragm gets bound up; putting us in a state of stress, affecting our ability to breathe and digest food correctly. Old injuries, surgical scarring and overtraining in a specific sport also have a significant impact on how balanced our fascial system is.
How is all of this combatted? Motion, motion and more motion. We are built to be active. Of course, too much of one activity and over training creates issues for the fascia. I’m not referring to becoming an Olympic athlete here.
Taking daily walks, functional strength training, playing your favorite sport and yard work all count. Moderation and not staying in the same posture/activity for hours on end is key. If you sit for work all day, consider doing intervals at a stand desk. If you train for a specific sport find out what imbalances your sport creates and counteract this with complementary exercises.
The other key is doing fascial balancing exercises. Yoga, Thai Chi, Pilates are all practices designed to balance fascia. Core strength and breathwork are integrated with all three of these. This is important because our deeper fascial layers are targeted, and overall health can really improve. Self-care is the final piece of the puzzle. Work on yourself with a foam roller and/or ball. I recommend stretching and rolling on these tools concurrently for 10-15 minutes a day.
If your schedule is busy, using a stand desk and working on yourself with a foam roller may be all that you have time for. Something is better than nothing. Don’t let lack of time stop you from making small positive health changes.
Finally, chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, acupuncture and massage are all really great additions to the above. If you are really active, training for something, have old injuries or significant postural changes, go for the home run. Enlisting the help of a professional will speed up your progress and get you moving in the right direction.
Dr. Leonard’s practice focuses on posture and performance using a combination of soft tissue release, adjustments and exercise recommendations. She also coaches patients on nutrition, self-care and body awareness so they can manage themselves in between visits. Los Alamos Chiropractic Center is in the Mary Deal Building on Trinity Drive.