You’re Achy, You’re Sore, FASCIA and You Have No Idea Why??
It feels like muscle pain, but unlike a tight hamstring that makes you moan when you stand up, your ache isn’t triggered by a particular movement, and you can feel it in different places at various times. The culprit could be your fascia (pronounced “fash-ya”), a web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body and surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve blood vessel, and organ to the cellular level.
How Fascia Makes You Feel
You have six times as many sensory neurons loaded in your fascia as in any other tissue of your body except for your skin. This internal webbing helps different muscle systems communicate with one another. Ideally, your fascia should be supple enough to slide, glide, twist and bind like long, thin sheets of rubber. When they’re not functioning properly, signals from the nerve endings are muffled or muted (you feel uncomfortable in your own body).
You know how your muscles feel cramped and stiff? After a night’s sleep or another long period of inactivity, like a car trip or plane ride), the parts of your fascia that wrap around and through your muscle fibers, which are normally stretchy and flexible, can stick together like previously chewed wadded up gum. The fix: The best way to release the fascia is to slowly and luxuriously stretch out. This will gently pull the muscles apart and separate the connecting tissue.
Roll It Out Like Bread Dough
Fascia can be finicky: It gets stiff and sticky when you don’t move around enough, but it can also get bound up and twisted together when you move too much or do repetitive motion or injure yourself through activity. The fix: Work out overused sore spots with a foam roller. You’ve probably seen people at the gym using these things to help them stretch out.
Go slowly, and when you get to a sore spot that feels like a bruise, pause for a few seconds. The discomfort should melt away as the fascia softens and the muscles release. If you feel intense pain that doesn’t dissipate, stop and consider making an appointment with a physical therapist. Also try a device called the Stick. It lets you really go deep into your calves, shins and hamstrings, but because it’s more rigid than a foam roller, the Stick can feel much more intense (think deep-tissue massage versus regular rubdown).
Don’t Let the Tissues Get “Crunchy”
If you’ve ever had a shoulder rub and heard something that sounded like crinkling plastic under your skin, that wasn’t your imagination — it was probably your parched, stiffened fascia, The collagen fibers that make up fascia need to stay supple to work properly, and to slide over and under muscles and other inner-body surfaces. The fix: One way to keep the fascia hydrated is obvious: drink lots of fluids. Another easy way is to make sure you stand up, stretch and flex regularly throughout the day to keep the fascia from locking up.
Let Your Family Physical Therapist Check It
There are different therapeutic methods to address keeping the fascia healthy. If you’re chronically stiff and sore, or you have a muscle injury that just won’t heal, consult a Physical Therapist to see what would be right for you. PTs have seen clients for whom nothing seemed to work…until fascial therapy melted away their pain and stiffness.