19 Nov Fascia – Connecting you from Head to Toe
What is Fascia?
Fascia is the connective tissue that wraps up every cell in the body.
It makes up cell membranes, connects muscle fibres, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules etc. It connects us from head to toe in a series of slings. See images. It is made up of collagen fibres and an extracellular matrix (gel like substance the collagen is within). The Extracellular matrix (ECM) contains all the precursor cells to lay down more fibre, it provides water, anti-inflammatory substances, inflammatory substances and much more. Keeping it healthy with what we eat, drink and do is imperative.
How is fascia made stronger?
The fibres around our muscles and tendons form a kind of mesh; when the fibres in the mesh are aligned they are stronger than when they are arranged in a haphazard way like felt. When we exercise (including weights and stretching) the tissues align giving them greater tensile strength, when we are sedentary, they look like felt and are not as strong when a force is applied.
Some interesting research findings.
- When we are sedentary our fascia becomes aligned like felt, having less tensile strength
- Load placed on the achilles is least when walking barefoot (Scott Wearing, research Queensland University). It takes a 10cm heel raise to equal the reduction in force achieved by walking barefoot! Shoes do not unload the tendons. They do pad the sole of the foot; however, this is a different matter.
= how can this be?
- Walking slowly imparts more force on the achilles and muscles than fast walking. Fast walking utilises the elastic potential energy (spring) in the muscle.
- Tendon weakness was often also found in the opposite limb to the injury.
What does the latest research tell us about building soft tissue resilience?
- Exercise daily to maintain tensile strength of tissues (muscles, tendon, ligaments)
- Drink plenty of water to keep the fascia healthy and lubricated. Water makes the gel like extracellular matrix (ECM) more slippery, therefore us more flexible. Dehydration causes tissues to become sticky and stiff.
- Massage (myofascial release or deep tissue) helps the ECM become more lubricated, but the effect does not always last. Use massage as a starting point to get you back on track with exercise
- Stretching is an effective way to strengthen fascia if you cannot exercise.
- Wearing sports shoes can increase load on a repairing tendon and therefore be a form of exercise
Treating your own facia;
- Specific stretches are very effective
- Personalised strengthening and/or weights program
- Self massage – learn techniques from your physio. We sell a variety of self massage tools here at Physio Body and Sole.
- Eat and drink well