The Villain of the Piece
When you are healthy, happy and balanced your body glides and you move painlessly, sleeping well and generally feeling good.
But what if you are already past this point and you are feeling, stiff, sore, or locked up?
It helps to know who the main villains could be….
Lack of movement
Humans used to move from sunup to sundown. How different life is now! No matter how you live your life, most of us spend hours a day sitting in front of a screen, in a car, or on your phone.
We repeat the same limited movements day in and day out. You’ve heard the phrase “use it or loose it” this is especially true when it comes to your connective tissue (fascia). When it doesn’t move it becomes dried out, stiffened and sticky.
If you imagine your fascia is like a sponge which is filled with water, over time this water gets dirty. If you squeeze the sponge the water runs out. Then you move and dip the sponge in the water again, so it soaks up the new clean water. This is basically what happens day in, day out, in your body when you move. Squeezing the sponge allows the fascia to replace old water with new. The move and rest cycle are key to keeping your fascia refreshed and supple enough to glide easily. When you don’t move regularly, your fascia assumes that position becoming stiffer, tangled and matted
So, what do you do?
Mix it up – try a different way of moving, or if you don’t move, start. Pick something you enjoy and do it. If you are already active try something different, everyone labels themselves “runner, swimmer, couch potato”. However, the more you mix up what you do, and move in different ways the healthier your fascia will be.
Use you full range of motion – stretch and exercise to your limits on a regular basis.
Work both sides – If you do any activity that uses one side of your body for instance hockey or golf, try swinging the stick or club from the opposite side occasionally.
Your fascia is everywhere, so every time you injure yourself, whether that is tripping on the children’s toys or straining your back lifting something heavy, you damage your fascia. Small injuries are not a big deal as your fascia is good at repairing itself, however, injuries can spell trouble in the long run.
Imagine a beautiful spider’s web having a hole poked in it. In response the spider weaves many strands in the space with a tangled pattern. This is what can happen in your fascia, resulting in adhesions and knots, which can restrict movement and lead to pain.
So why is this such a big deal? Because everything in you body is connected. Just like a fitted bedsheet if you pull on one corner it affects the whole bed. That’s why when you injure one area in your fascia pain can appear in a distant area.
Also, you may begin to compensate for the injury by moving differently, moving or holding other parts of you body in a different way. The longer that continues for the more you compensate and the more symptoms you can experience.
The flip side of lack of movement is overuse, this is performing the same movement over and over again, day after da. If you spend the day at a computer, leaning over doing similar movements (beautician, hairdressers, dentists, cleaners……) or carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder. These movements can cause micro traumas, and while these generally, are not as severe as a major trauma (fall or accident) they can have a long-term effect.
I used to notice this when I carried a heavy bag with all my girls’ stuff in it when they were little. I always carried it on the left shoulder and over time I developed pain and restricted movement in my neck, shoulder, and upper back. Now I limit what is in my bag and consciously swap the bag from arm to arm.
Overuse can apply to any part of your body, carrying a young child on your hip can stress the fascia in your hip, side, back, arm and neck.
There is also another kind of overuse that we are falling fowl of “Text neck” yes, our beloved phones! When you sit or stand with your head forwards, as you do when you are scrolling through social media, you are placing a huge strain on your fascia.
Spinal surgeon Kenneth Hansraj notes, “an adult head weighs 10 – 12 pounds in the neutral position. As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surge to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees”1
If this position is only held for a short time your body can recover, however if you consider how long you spend a day with you head tilted down and forwards, reading, texting or typing, it is not surprising how many people suffer from headaches, neck pain and back pain.
Exercise is the beast way to hydrate your fascia and create a gliding motion. However, you can’t hydrate your fascia when you are dehydrated. The most obvious problem is not drinking enough water, but there are other contributing factors, working in artificially heated or cooled buildings, eating processed foods requires more water to process, even technology can affect us.
So, the long and short of it is drink more water, is unbelievably simple but massively effective.
It’s a viscous cycle, stress makes your fascia tight, and a tight fascia makes you stressed. You can see it in in your neck, face, jaw and you feel it in your posture. There are many stress techniques out there to try. See my Blog “Feeling Stressed – Tools to Help” https://cherrybarnbowen.co.nz/blog/post/feeling-stressed-tools-help for more information.
You can’t stop aging, but it is worth remembering, as you get older it is important to consider your fascia. As we age our fascia gets stiffer, it breaks down and it dries out. But we can fight back by using gravity in activities such as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi to stretch and pump more fluid into the fascia.
A Poor Diet
Processed and sugary foods damage the fascia causing the tissue to effectively become sticky. Natural and unprocessed foods help to build, protect, and replace the collagen fibres that form the fascia. So, the long and short of it is, refined sugars BAD, natural unprocessed foods GOOD.
Like the rest of the body your fascia is affected by toxins in your food air and water. One of most obvious is smoking because it lowers the amount of nutrients available in the supply of oxygen to the fascia. This is one of the reasons why smokers are three time more likely to get chronic back pain.2
So here are the main villains hiding in plain sight. The good news is whichever villain or villains plague you, you can free your tight, knotted, sticky fascia though simple lifestyle changes and through gentle, relaxing Bowen Therapy.
Sourced - Dr. Daniel Fenster. “Free Your Fascia” June 2020
Posted in Blog on Jun 16, 2021