In recent weeks, I’ve written about the best exercises and food for 50+, and today I want to discuss fascia. I have been talking with my students about fascia for the last several years, and specifically, how we can keep it strong and flexible with certain exercises in my Pilates and Yoga classes.
What is Fascia, you ask? Well, it’s the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles, bones, and organs. It’s also become a new “buzz word” around Pilates or fitness studios.
Before Covid, I studied Tom Myers’ work and was fascinated with the Myofacial meridians (lines of muscles and fascia that work together in patterns to shape much of our movement.)
Way back when I took Anatomy and Physiology, fascia was thought to be simply a protective covering for more important body parts. Like many other things that have been “discovered,” with the advances in medical technologies, however, docs now also know that fascia is important for our range of motion and flexibility.
According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, “Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that surrounds and holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fiber and muscle in place. The tissue does more than provide internal structure; fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin. When stressed, it tightens up.
Although fascia looks like one sheet of tissue, it’s actually made up of multiple layers with liquid in between called hyaluronan. It’s designed to stretch as you move. But there are certain things that cause fascia to thicken and become sticky. When it dries up and tightens around muscles, it can limit mobility and cause painful knots to develop.”
This means that repetitive movements, traumatic injuries, and a sedentary lifestyle can cause not only muscle pain and stiffness, but also gum up your fascia, which can limit your range of motion and flexibility, and cause pain.
The issue now becomes what is causing your pain? Is it muscular? Is it a joint issue? Or is it gummy fascia? In general, muscle injuries and joint problems feel worse the more you move. Gummy fascia tends to feel better with movement and respond well to heat therapy, which helps bring back the tissue’s elasticity.
So, what is the best way to keep your fascia healthy?
MOVE! Most of us sit too much, and sit slumping at that! Stand up and move at least once an hour.
Stretch! It also helps to stand up and stretch – even a few minutes every hour makes a difference!
Slumping is bad for fascia, muscles, bones, and even affects your breathing! Here is a video of how to “stand tall.” Practice doing this as often as possible during your day.
And, if you have fascial pain, you can try Yoga therapy or a Pilates class, or get a massage if you like bodywork. (I’m up for a massage anytime!)
Best of Health,