Confessions of a Fascia Nerd: Part Two
This week is the Fascia Research Conference in Berlin Germany – and we are just catching up with science. It turns out that fascia is a remarkably communicative sensory and proprioceptive tissue. What fascia researchers are discovering is amazing – not just for fascia nerds like me, but for anyone who wants to pursue more movement and less pain.
Here is some newly emerging information about fascia and how you can use it to maximize not just your athletic performance, but also just your plain old ability to feel good in your body.
1. Fascia is a tensional fluid system
While it’s difficult for us to understand how a support structure could be a fluid structure – because we’re not exactly making hi-rise buildings out of Jell-O – it’s true. Juicy fascia is happy fascia. The best analogy I can give is of a sponge. When a sponge dries out it becomes brittle and hard. It can easily be broken with only a little force because of how crispy it has become. However, when a sponge is wet and well hydrated it gets springy and resilient. You can crush it into a little ball and it bounces back. You can wring it and twist it, but it is difficult to break.
Once we understand that we’re like that on the inside, keeping our fascia hydrated takes on more importance. Our mobility, integrity, and resilience are determined in large part by how well hydrated our fascia is. In fact, what we call “stretching a muscle” is actually the fibers of the connective tissue (collagen) gliding along one another on the mucous-y proteins called glycosaminoglycans (GAGs for short). GAGs, depending on their chemistry, can glue layers together when water is absent, or allow them to skate and slide on one another when hydrated.1,2 This is one of the reasons most injuries are fascial. If we get “dried out” we are more brittle and are at much greater risk for erosion, a tear, or a rupture.
Its not just about drinking more water,. To be able to get the fluid to all of your important nooks and crannies you need to first get better irrigated (via the microvacuoles.3 And to do that, you’ve got to get work on your soft tissue to untangle those gluey bits.
2. Variation matters
Movement also gets the hydration out to the tissue as well, but that movement needs to be varied. This means variation not just of the movements themselves, but also variation of tempo. Not only does moving constantly in the same ways and in the same planes put you at further risk for joint erosion (a là osteoarthritis), but you are also dehydrating the fascia in a particular pattern, thus setting you up for that brittle tissue that injuries love so much.
3. It’s all connected
Our body parts are NOT separate, so we shouldn’t see them as such. Because of the way we all learn and study anatomy – whether the extent of your studying was singing “the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone!” We should begin to see it as a whole living system that is connected, and start treating our bodies holistically that all inside and out are interrelated systems. Nothing stands alone.