Fascia: The Mystery

You might be thinking, what is this word, and why haven’t I ever heard of it before? 

Fasciae (the plural of fascia) are quite a mystery, not only to the general public, but also to researchers and medical specialists. However, they play an extremely important role in proper body functioning. A fascia is like a plastic wrap under our skin that helps to hold muscles, organs, and blood vessels in place. Fasciae restrain these body parts from moving from their position while we are moving, bending, running, jumping, and exercising freely out in the world.

You may have questioned why your organs stay in place without falling to the bottom of your abdomen. This is because fasciae are attentively doing their work, holding your organs together in their place.

Fasciae are spread throughout our body from head to toe, holding us together. They act like the white fiber of an orange, working to encapsulate every cell of our body in its place. While fasciae may seem to be a hidden mystery in the medical world, they are everywhere in our body! 

Composition of Fasciae:

Fasciae are made up of collagen and ground substance. Collagen gives structural mechanical properties to fasciae, as it encapsulates the bundles of wavy fibers which tend to straighten under tension. Ground substance is a white sticky substance whose consistency matches that of an egg white. It fills the gaps between the collagen and holds minerals, nutrients, and other important elements of the fascia.  

3 Types of Fascia:

Fascia is a fibrous connective tissue which spreads throughout your body. There are three main types of fascia. 

  • Superficial fascia: mostly found under the skin. It is the outermost layer of fascia. 
  • Deep fascia: found around muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones, holding them in position. 
  • Visceral fascia: keeps organs in place in our body so that they don’t move or collide with each other, causing severe injury. 

3 Ways to Keep Fasciae Flexible and Healthy:

  • Move more: Exercise helps keep your fasciae healthy, as moving will make them more flexible.
  • Stretch regularly: Stretching helps reduce pain and improves the flexibility of the fasciae, hence reducing the pain.  
  • Focus on posture: Sitting all day with a slouched posture and walking with a poor posture also affects fasciae. which may get shorter and tighter, causing pain. Maintaining posture while standing and sitting is a good way to keep fasciae flexible and loose.

Methods to Relieve Painful Fasciae:

  • Stretch 10 minutes daily: Stretching helps elongate the muscles, thus relieving tension between the muscle and fascia. You need your fasciae strong, healthy and flexible in order to maintain a wide range of motion. 

For best results, maintain a stretch for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and avoid getting into postures that are too deep or painful. 

  • Hydration: Proper hydration helps every cell in our body to function properly, including the cells of fasciae. Hydration will help a fascia to function properly.
  • Acupuncture: With its immeasurable benefits, acupuncture can be used at pressure points to help relieve the stress and tightness of fasciae and muscle, thereby helping them to relax. 
  • Foam rolling: If you’re unsure exactly which fascia is causing problems, foam rolling does most of the work in finding which fascia is painful and tight. A foam roller will target the pressure points and the tight fasciae, and with time, they will reach their optimal health.  
  • Massage therapy: During a massage, you feel relaxed and lightweight due to the fact that the massagers hold and release tight points. This helps tight muscles and fasciae to relax, thus ridding your body of pain and stress. 
  • Heat therapy: Relaxation of the muscles and fascia induced by heat dates back to the 14th century. Providing heat at a therapeutic range (40 degrees) has multiple benefits on muscles, as heat helps reduce soreness and pain, increases range of motion, and increases flexibility. 
  • Yoga therapy: Yoga is much like a physical therapy with a wide range of benefits. Yoga therapy will increase flexibility, strength, and proper balance.   

Plantar Fascia: 

The plantar fascia is one of the most commonly known fasciae, as numerous individuals suffer from heel pain due to plantar fasciitis. There is a band of connective tissues that run across the bottom of the feet, connecting the heel bone to your toes. This band absorbs all the impact and stress caused by exercise and other activities.

When impacted, the band starts swelling near the heel, causing intense, stabbing pain across the heel. This pain may subside after taking a few steps.

Plantar fasciitis can be caused by excessive weight, certain types of exercises that place a lot of stress on your heel tissues (like ballet, aerobic dances, etc.), age, and occupations that keeps you on your feet. 

Healing of the Plantar Fascia: 

Plantar fasciitis can be cured with many home based exercises. Ful recovery may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or even months. You should avoid doing exercises that create stress on the heel and substitute them with other forms of exercise. Stopping exercise entirely will only stiffen the muscle and worsen the condition. 

The following approaches may help you relieve pain due to plantar fasciitis:

  • Protect the heel:  You can use orthotic devices in your shoes to absorb impact. Whichever shoe you are wearing, make sure to use an insole or orthotic device to protect your heel. 
  • Support your feet: Support your feet by wearing high soled and cushioned shoes. These shoes tend to support your feet and provoke less damage.
  • Stretch your feet: Stretching has a large effect on the plantar fascia, and will help to relieve the pain and reduce inflammation.  
  • Reduce pain and inflammation: There are multiple ways to reduce the pain and inflammation of plantar fasciitis. You can put ice on the inflamed area to reduce the inflammation. Taking non-steroidal medications will help reduce the pain, as well as the inflammation.

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