Updated: Jun 20
Eric Johnson, Ph. D., MPH describes fascia as "a gelatin with lots of protein fibers - it's like a biological fabric." But that said, he stresses that "very little is known about fascia," particularly how it functions on an everyday level in living people.
"The fascial system is an amazingly designed web that transfers, converts and absorbs force," says Ann Techworth, LMT
Soft Tissue is often referred to as Fascia where Fascia is referred to as Soft Tissue! These two names are one in the same as we talk about them!
Often when you go to a doctor, massage therapist or even chiropractor you often hear them talk about soft tissue, but you have no clue what they are talking about! This blog is for you! Finally learn what the medical field is talking about.
What is Fascia?
Fascia was discovered over 500 years ago, so fascia is still pretty new to the science and anatomy world!
Fascia refers to connective tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body. Fascia attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other organs! This tissue provides a framework that helps support and protect individual muscle groups, organs, and the entire body as a unit.
Fascia includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves, fibrous tissues, fat, blood vessels, and synovial membranes.
Soft tissue is all-encompassing and interwoven system of fibrous connective tissue found throughout the body! Fascia is head to toe in the body, inside to outside of the human body. Fascia is like plastic wrap around all muscles and organs that is connected and permeates the whole body!
Fascia is classified by layer, as superficial fascia, deep fascia, and visceral or parietal fascia, or by its function and anatomical location.
For those of you who are visual learners, you can imagine your skin is like the rid of an orange. So, if your skin is the outer layer of the orange peel, the thicker, white, fibrous layer that lies almost immediately beneath the peel would be your fascia. Just as that thicker layer completely surrounds the inside of the orange, the same holds true to your fascia. We all have a layer of fascia directly beneath the skin that completely and envelopes the body, giving another protective barrier between the skin and the deeper soft tissue. -Ashley Black
Human soft tissue is highly deformable, and its mechanical properties vary significantly from one person to another. This means injuries may look and feel different from person to person!
Your muscle fascia is important to every move you make. And, when your fascia is tight or damaged you may suffer from any number of symptoms, including headaches, muscle pain, neck and back pain, general lack of flexibility, and poor posture. The most common reasons for tight fascia are prolonged sitting or standing and lack of stretching. -Christiane Northrup, M.D.
What is the Components of Fascia?
Fascia is built up of elastin, collagen and ground substance. When all put together it is called connective tissue. Like bones, fascia is composed primarily of collagen which gives them a tough but pliable texture.
Fascia is made up of fibrous connective tissue containing closely packed bundles of collagen fibers oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull. The collagen fibers are produced by fibroblasts located within the fascia.
What is Fascia's Job?
Fascia was traditionally thought of as passive structure that transmits mechanical tension generated by muscular activities or external forces throughout the body. Now that scientist have had more research they have found more jobs for fascia.
An important job of muscle fascia is to reduce friction of muscular force. Fascia provide a supportive and movable wrapping for nerves and blood vessels as they pass through and between muscles.
The fascial system maintains a balance of tension and elasticity which allows for smooth, unrestricted movement of each muscle group while holding everything in place. If the fascia is restricted then muscle contraction is restricted.
Fascia is responsible for stabilizing your entire body and giving you your human form. It is also a fluid system that every cell in your body relies on for proper functioning. It is the crystalline structure that literally holds all the information of your life!
How to Take Care of Your Fascia
When your fascia is in tip-top shape, it does all these wonderful things for your body. “But when the fascia system is disrupted, it quite literally impacts almost every other system of the body,” Black says.
1. Stay Hydrated
Fascia is like a sponge, when it’s dry, it’s stiff and hard to move. When it’s doused with water, it twists, turns and bends with ease. If you don’t drink enough water, the brittle fascia is more likely to suffer from an injury because its mobility and resilience has been impacted. So add this to the list of reasons why you should drink more water. Aim for at least 1.6 liters a day if you’re a woman and two liters if you’re a man. This helps the tissue stay lubricated, allowing the muscles to glide easily past each other.
2. Get Moving
Lack of movement can create restrictions and adhesions in fascia, leading to stiffness, soreness and inefficient movement patterns, says neuromuscular therapist Rebecca Millhouse
So the more time you spend as a couch potato, the unhealthier your fascia will become. It’s a matter of exercising regularly and stretching often. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise and at least two 20-minute strength-training sessions per week.
3. Mix up Your Workouts
Problems with fascia commonly occur with repetitive motions -Stephen Szaro
Whether you’re a cyclist, a runner or do another type of repetitive sport, incorporate strength training at least two times a week. Consider adding a day of another type of cardio, such as swimming or a few games of tennis.
4. Stretch Regularly
After a good night’s rest, you wake up and need to stretch out those stiff muscles. The reason for this? Parts of your fascia are sticking together like chewed bubble gum. As you wake up, release the stickiness by slowly stretching your arms and legs and doing a few quick rolls from side to side. Bring yourself to the edge of the bed and flex and release your feet to get the fascia moving in your ankles and calves.
5. Roll it Out
Like stretching, foam rolling helps smooth out any kinks or adhesions in the fascia.
If you’re unfamiliar with foam rollers, think of it as a wider, stiffer pool noodle. You lie on it, placing the roller where you feel pain or stiffness, and let gravity help you push down as you roll along the floor. When you hit a particularly sore spot, stop for about 15 to 20 seconds to see if the pain will dissipate. Foam rolling can hurt, but you shouldn’t speed through it. Take your time when rolling, taking deep breaths and relaxing into the roller.
6. Visit a Myofascial Specialist
If you can’t seem to fix your fascia’s issues on your own, it’s time to head to a professional. They aren’t simply massage therapist, though a good massage can work wonders on a suffering fascia, and massage therapists can be trained in myofascial release techniques.
In a typical session, the specialist applies gentle pressure or a low-load stretch to the affected area, releasing tightness and, ideally, reducing pain. Keep in mind that there’s no official certification for a myofascial specialist, says Black, so do some research on your chosen provider.
“Experienced and knowledgeable fascial specialists are rare, but if you can find one, you can have a life-changing experience” says Black