Fascial adhesion and mobility
It is commonly thought that our mobility (the ability to actively move through a wide range of motions) comes from the flexibility or ‘stretchiness’ of our muscles. However, the network of fasciae, which provides structure to our body’s tissues, also plays an important role in our ability to move. Let us explain!
What is fasciae?
Our body’s network of fascia is made of sheets of connective tissues that encase each layer of our muscles and other tissues, similar to a casing around a sausage (sorry for that visual!). Fascia shares structural similarities to ligaments and tendons as they are all made of collagen, which provides strength and stability to the softer tissue layers. In the case of muscles, they allow the individual fibers from a single or multiple muscle(s) to contract together and produce an exponentially greater force than they could on their own.
How does fascial adhesion affect mobility?
Healthy fascia provides structure to our tissues while allowing them to slide and glide against each other. However, when the “chemical environment” changes within the layers of fascia due to an old injury, inflammation, or scarring, our tissues lose their ability to move fluidly. This “adhesion” causes a limitation in mobility.
How to keep fascia flexible?
We do this by improving circulation! Movement helps to stimulate blood flow to provide healthy nutrients to the tissues, while the tension created through muscle contraction and stretching creates a pressure force that circulates the lymphatic system that moves waste products out.
By increasing blood flow to the tissues in the body, we directly increase body temperature. When our body temperature increases our tissues become more viscoelastic (stretchy) which improves mobility and any pain associated with fascial adhesion. This is why we often feel reduced pain and a greater range of motion after warming up or using heat.
The trick to getting these effects to last is stimulating circulation in a way that does not create inflammatory waste products and helps to circulate the ones that are there out. Think about it… most of us challenge our bodies’ to get a “good workout”, but how often do we move to recover?
Here are a few things you can do to keep your fascia healthy:
- Add a cool down after your workouts
- It’s important to include a low intensity cardiovascular exercise to the end of your workouts to help your body metabolize and circulate waste products from high intensity training.
- After your workout, perform 5 minutes of “gravity assisted” movements (biking, elliptical, swimming or rowing), or a short walk on the treadmill / around the building before getting back in your car.
- Stretch and Foam Roll Less Aggressively
- The maximum benefits of stretching cap at 50% of your pain threshold. Anything above this and the positive effects start to decline. This is because your body starts to tighten to a pain response and the aggressive nature may lead to the build up of inflammation.
- When foam rolling and stretching, focus on relaxing into it and hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Consider an anti-inflammatory diet
- If your body is inflamed, then your tissues will be as well, making it that much more difficult for our body to recover. If you are having full body / multi joint tightness or other signs of chronic inflammation, this is the #1 place to start
- *Please note that inflammation is not a bad thing and actually helps us to heal! However, when it becomes abundant and stagnant, it can wreak havoc through our entire body. Make sure you check in with your doctor before starting any dietary changes.