The Real Deal: Fascia, More Than Just Skin Deep

Fascia – you might have heard of it.  It is becoming more popular as the understanding of fascia has developed scientifically.  But what might surprise you is that it is more than just the deep layer underneath your skin.  In fact, fascia is a connective tissue deep in the epidermis that is connected through your entire body, from your ten toes to your scalp and everywhere in between.  It is one continuous part of your tissue that changes in viscosity and depth depending on where it lies within, and it surrounds every muscle, nerve, bone, and every organ in your body.  Sounds pretty darn important doesn’t it?  

If you look at the world wide web and Google fascia, you will find some interesting definitions that pertain to automobiles, mobile phones, rafters and lastly, anatomy, defining it as a thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ.

Without fascia, our hearts might float around our chest and bump into our lungs.  It plays a vital role in the health of every part of our body and we can certainly even feel pain in our fascia.  At some point in your life, you might have mistaken fascia pain as a sore muscle.  Fascia is a tissue that undergoes change if the body requires it to take on a different shape in the fibers or a different density of the fibers.  This can be something as simple as whacking your arm up against something – the impact can affect how the fascia tissue responds to protect the skin above it and the muscle fibers below it.  

Fascia is flexible and soft and it’s mostly collagen, a protein that creates the strength and flexibility fascia needs to perform.  It also has slip to it because of the hyaluronan (aka hyaluronic acid).  This is what gives your skin the ability to glide over muscles.  When we lose the glide, the fascia can have an adhesion, where the tissue gathers and becomes thicker and less slippery.  In these areas, this may cause pain and would require fascial releases to break up the adhesion and return the fascia to a healthy state where the strands become pliable but strong enough to withstand high levels of tension.

Keeping our fascia healthy should be part of our overall health.  So, what can we do to keep our fascia healthy?  

Hydration.  Proper hydration will keep the fascia from becoming dehydrated.  In addition to drinking your eight glasses of water each day, think about eating for hydration, too.  Plant foods that contain high amounts of water, or something you might not have heard of, gel water.  Umm, gel water?  Yes. When you add on an extra molecule of hydrogen to plain H2O, you end up with gel water and it is naturally found in plants like cucumbers, watermelon, tomatoes, berries, lemons and even cauliflower.  Some of these contain 90% water.  So even the iceberg lettuce in salad that gets a bad rap is a very hydrating food, even if it is not carrying a lot of nutrients.

Motion.  Ever heard the saying “motion is lotion” when it comes to joint health?  It also applies to your fascial health.  Moving keeps your body and your fascia gliding.  Stretching is a great way to keep your fascia long and strong by helping to break up any adhesions that you might have due to trauma or inflammation.  Yoga, Pilates, and just plain old stretching are some great adhesion breaking movements.

Tools.  Foam rolling is great for helping to break up muscle knots, but it is also going to help smooth out your fascia. This is a good practice to incorporate after any workout!  Gua-sha stones work well, smaller ones for the face (yep, smoothing your facial fascia will help reduce lines!) but also larger ones for the body.   Using the stones combined with a gliding oil will get your fascia gliding on the inside!

Nutritional Collagen.  Since our fascia is primarily collagen, taking in this protein will increase your body’s ability to build healthy fascia.  There are a ton of collagen supplements on the market, available online, in the pharmacy.  They are readily accessible but so is a great source of collagen in the grocery store.  Shop the meat section for your body’s best way to take in protein since we assimilate the protein of animals better than that of plants.  Hormone free, pasture raised meats will provide the cleanest, purest forms of collagen you can get. In the soup aisle you will find bone broth and a hot cup of this liquid will provide around seven grams of collagen protein.  As we age, our body’s ability to produce collagen declines so getting in your daily protein will keep your fascia strong and healthy.


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