Fascia: Pain and Injury
Fascia is a term that is gaining more attention in the medical field for being a major contributor to soft tissue injuries and pain. Fascia is not easily seen on MRI scans, X-rays or ultrasounds, which is why it has often been overlooked when treating injuries. However, new research shows that fascia plays a significant role in many people with longstanding injuries. Common examples include low back pain, rotator cuff injuries, tennis elbow, shin splints and frozen shoulder.
What is Fascia? Fascia is a three-dimensional web of connective tissue that spreads throughout the body, from head to toe. The first layer of fascia is directly below the skin. It surrounds every muscle, bones, nerves and organs down to the cellular level. Its job is to stabilize, enclose, attach and separate muscles and organs. The Fascia Research Group from Ulm University has demonstrated that fascia can contract independently of muscle tissue (Fascia Documentary, 2013). This is an important finding since it can explain that releasing fascial restrictions can be another method of relieving pain.
How Do Fascial Restrictions Occur? Incorrect posture, overusing muscles, trauma, inflammatory responses, inactivity, lack of stretching, surgical procedures and stress are all contributors to fascial restrictions. Fascia in its healthy state is relaxed and supple. However, when restricted, it is rigid and less pliable, which creates tension and pressure on surrounding structures (L. Ganfield, 2009). It also decreases blood flow, leaving areas vulnerable for injury.
Who Treats Fascial Restrictions? Massage Therapists, Physiotherapists, Chiropractors and other health professionals who specialize in fascial work and myofascial release. Part of the process involves separating the fascial structures that adhere the muscles together. Techniques may be more painful than typical massage techniques but have been shown to be more effective and efficient. Yoga and acupuncture have also been shown to release facial restrictions.